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M.A. M.R.S-L. 






U Y 





BOIARDO ...... 3 



BEMBO ...... 93 


PIETRO ARETINO . . . . 131 

BERNARDO TASSO . . . .183 


FRANCESCO BERN I . . . .297 

LUIGI ALAMANNl . . . . 319 


HTftt Htfe of 


THE lives of few of the Italian poets offer more 
subjects for dispute than that of the Count Matteo 
Maria Boiardo. It would, however, afford as little 
instruction as amusement to the general reader to 
lead him over the thorny field of such a contro- 
versy, and it will be sufficient to state, that he 
was of an ancient and noble family of Reggio, 
which, in the fourteenth century, was divided into 
several branches, and that his immediate ancestors 
had enjoyed, for many generations, the Lordship 
of Rubiera.* His birth is supposed by some writers 
to have occurred in June, in the year 1430 ; the 

* Giannandrea Barotti, Let. Ferraresi. 
B 2 


name of his father being Gasparo, and that of 
his mother Cornelia degli Apj.* The laborious 
and sceptical Barotti, however, asserts that he was 
the son, not of Gasparo and Cornelia degli Apj, 
but of Giovanni and Lucia Strozzi, sister of Tito 
Strozzi, and that he was born about the year 1434. 
The place of his nativity is also equally a matter 
of doubt; Fratta, near Ferrara, have been gene- 
rally allowed the honour, but Ferrara, Scandiano, 
and Reggio all claim the same title to respect. 

Little is known for certainty of the early years 
of his life. According to most of his biographers, 
he was the pupil of the celebrated Soccino Ben- 
ci,f a Peripatetic and Platonic philosopher, and, 
under his care, became skilled in the civil law, and 
other liberal sciences. He also received instruc- 
tion, it is said, in the Latin and Greek languages in 
the school of Guarino Veronese, the resort of the 
noblest men in Italy. The improvement which he 
reaped from these advantages of study, was made 
apparent in several compositions of considerable 
merit, and his Latin and Italian verses, together 
with some translations from the Greek classics, 
obtained the favourable attention of Borso Duke 
of Modena. By his learning and natural accom- 

* Mazzuchelli. t Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese. 


plishments he speedily became one of the most 
popular men about the Court, and the princes of the 
house of Este took him under their especial pro- 
tection, and advanced him to the highest offices 
of the State. 

While acting as the Minister of Borso, he ac- 
companied that Prince to Rome, when he went to 
receive the investiture of the dukedom of Ferrara, 
and the rose of gold from Pope Paul the Second. 
Borso died the same year, (1471,) but Boiardo was 
regarded by his son and successor, Hercules, with 
equal affection, and, as his private Chamberlain, 
enjoyed his confidence in the most important affairs 
of government. It is also said, that, shortly after 
his return from Rome to his fief of Scandiano, he 
married Taddea Gonzaga de' Conti di Novellara, 
who was received by his vassals with extraordinary 
pomp and rejoicings. 

When Hercules was preparing for his espousals 
with the Duchess Eleanora of Arragon in 1472, 
Boiardo was one of the nobles who were chosen to 
conduct her to Ferrara ; besides which honourable 
mission, he was appointed to undertake several 
others to the courts of the most powerful princes 
of Italy. As a reward for the faithful performance 
of his charge, he is said to have been created a 


Cavalier about this period, and in 1478 he was 
made Governor of Reggio, in which capacity he 
presented the water with which the new Bishop, 
Buonfrancesco Arlotti, bathed his hands on taking 
possession of that diocese.* 

In the year 1481 he is found distinguished in a 
contemporary chronicle by the title of Captain, 
which had been conferred upon him on his re- 
moval from the command of Reggio to that of 
Modena. While governor of that town, he took a 
conspicuous part in the nuptials of the Count Ni- 
colo Bangoni with Bianca, the sister of Leonora, 
wife of Giberto Pio. Records remain to prove 
that he continued in the government of Modena 
till the year 1486 or 1487, but, in the following 
year, he was again in the command of Reggio. 

While enjoying the favour of his Prince, exer- 
cising the functions of a courtier and soldier, and 
sharing in all the gay and splendid pomps which 
marked the life of a feudal Baron in those days, 
Boiardo devoted his leisure time to the cultiva- 
tion of literature. In order to pursue his studies 
without interruption, he was accustomed to retire 
on these occasions to his estate of Scandiano ; and, 
among its wide and sylvan retreats, he composed, 

* Mazzuchelli Tiraboschi. 


it is said, the chief part of his poems. From the 
scenery in its neighbourhood he is also supposed 
to have drawn many of his fairest descriptions, 
while the names of his feudatories furnished him 
with appellations for his heroes Gradasso, Man- 
dricardo, Sacripante, and others. 

According to the same popular but doubtful re- 
port, it was while hunting in the woods of Fracasso, 
a short distance from Scandiano, that he dis- 
covered a name for his chief character. He had 
been long, it is said, in vain endeavouring to in- 
vent one which should be sufficiently sounding for 
a hero of the highest prowess and valour. All 
at once Rodomonte started into his mind, and, 
instantly turning his horse's head towards Scan- 
diano, he rode rapidly to the Castle, and ordered 
all the bells to be rung in honour of Rodomonte, 
filling his vassals, it is said, with astonishment, as 
they had never heard before of such a saint.* As 
he completed any portion of his poem, he was ac- 
customed to repeat it for the amusement of Her- 
cules and his courtiers ; and for the same purpose 
he wrote his comedy called " Timone," formed 
out of a dialogue of Lucian's, and composed in the 
terza rima. 

* Mazzuchelli. 


After having long enjoyed the reputation of being 
as great a scholar and poet, as he was a nobleman 
distinguished for the highest qualities of birth and 
disposition, he died at Reggio in December 1494, 
or, as some authors have asserted, in the February 
of the same year. The place of his burial has been 
as much disputed as that of his birth, and the few 
circumstances known of his life. The most credit- 
able writers appear to consider it certain that he 
was buried in the great church of Scandiano.* By 
his wife Taddea Gonzaga he had two sons, Cam- 
millo and Francesco Maria, and four daughters. 
His younger son died while a child, but he was 
succeeded in the fief of Scandiano by Cammillo. 

Of the ladies, to whom his amatory poetry is 
addressed, nothing is known, except that the name 
of the one was Antonia Caprara, and that of 
the other Rosa. According to the investigations 
of the curious on this subject, there was a lady 
of the name of Antonia Caprara, born at Reggio 
in the year 1451 ; and if, it is said, this was the 
identical Antonia whom Boiardo loved, she was 
eighteen, and he thirty-five, when he declared his 
passion.f But there are, on the other hand, so 
many expressions in his verses which scarcely agree 

* Tiraboschi. t Panizzi. 



with this supposition, that to reconcile all opinions 
on the question, he is allowed to have loved many 
ladies, or, as it ought to be put, perhaps, to have 
written love verses to many. It should not be for- 
gotten however that, according to the calculation 
above alluded to, he had loved the fair Antonia 
about two years with great ardour, and had con- 
tinued to address her with many passionate ex- 
pressions to the very eve of his marriage with the 
daughter of the Count of Novellara. 

The details of Boiardo's life are few and un- 
interesting. I have looked through a variety of 
works in the hope of finding more extensive 
materials for a memoir, and from the fear of suf- 
fering any thing to escape which might be either 
useful or interesting to the reader ; but my search 
has been vain, and I am not a little gratified at 
finding that my want of success has not been owing 
to any neglect in research, but to the real absence 
of materials ; the able and laborious scholar, Mr. 
Panizzi, whose edition of the " Orlando Innamorato" 
is just published, not having been able to discover 
any thing further respecting his favourite author. 

But the life of Boiardo has little to interest, not 
only from the scantiness of the notices which re- 
main respecting it, but, as it would seem, from its 


actual want of variety or incident. He was, it is 
true, occasionally engaged by his Prince on foreign 
missions, and he took part in many a gay and chi- 
valrous festival, but his time passed pleasantly on, 
nothing occurring to awake any of those stronger 
passions which mar the dreams of romance. Some- 
times in Ferrara, and at others at Scandiano, he 
shared his hours between the splendid amuse- 
ments of a courtier, and the luxurious reveries of a 
poet. The rank and fortune he possessed secured 
him from the cares to which by far the greater 
number of literary men are subject ; and, which was 
still further conducive to the tranquillity of both 
his mind and his life, he reaped the golden harvest 
of fame as quickly as he sowed the seed. Unlike 
most other writers, especially of long narrative 
poems,. he had not to wait for years before he could 
meet the encouraging smile of applause, or to la- 
bour at correction, and then depend, when all is 
finished, on the capricious humour of the public. 
As soon as a Canto was composed, he took it with 
him to Ferrara, and there in the presence of a 
brilliant Court, of which every member, from the 
Prince to the youngest page, was prepared to 
applaud him, he recited his gay and charming 


But though the life of Boiardo is thus rendered 
unimportant in the page of literary biography, 
the case is very different if we consider his work, 
and the influence it had on the poetry of Italy. 
When his name is remembered as associated 
with the first great romantic poem that favoured 
land of the Muses produced, he has a claim upon 
our respect, far inferior certainly to that which is 
due to the sublime Dante, or the elegant and noble- 
minded Petrarch, but sufficiently great to place 
him above all preceding Italian poets, whether nar- 
rative or otherwise. 

Of the origin of romantic poetry this is not the 
place to speak. The subject is an interesting one, 
and has been treated of in a manner worthy of its 
importance. The learning of many of the best 
scholars, both in this and other countries, has been 
unsparingly employed in tracing the legends and 
other materials of romances to their source, and 
success has in a considerable measure crowned 
their labours. At the head of these erudite critics 
we may justly place our own War ton, whose con- 
clusions have for the most part been either followed 
or confirmed by the greater number of subsequent 
writers on the subject. 

From the researches which have been thus car- 


ried on with equal taste and diligence, it is proved 
beyond a doubt that nearly all the traditions, out of 
which so many beautiful fictions have been formed, 
were founded on real or analogous circumstances. 
We have thus a curious fact pressed upon our at- 
tention, which is, that the poetry which appeals most 
strongly to the imagination, which is the wildest 
and most rarely attentive to the laws of probability, 
draws its inspiration from the real history of the 
world, and that thus the strictest epic and the 
most fanciful romantic poems have a similar origin. 
There was certainly as much general truth in the 
records of Charlemagne and his mighty Paladins 
as in those which preserved the memory of Aga- 
memnon and Achilles. All poetry, indeed, which 
can attract the attention of a people not highly 
refined, must be either devotional or narrative, and 
the latter will no more be listened to with interest 
unless its foundation be recognised and known as 
true, than the former would if addressed to a Deity 
unknown in the popular creed. It is difference of 
circumstances in the times when the poems are pro- 
duced, which gives to one age or nation an epic, 
and to another a romance. Had the Greeks been 
less free, or less incline/! to politics when Homer 
wrote, they would have had a romance ; and if 


instead of composing for a feudal Prince and his 
vassals, Boiardo had been writing for Florence, he 
would either have written in the half-laughing strain 
of Pulci, or attempted a narrative adapted to the 
acute intellect of his readers, as well as their love 
of heroic narrative in other words, his work would 
have been more an epic than a romance. Nor 
ought it to be forgotten, indeed, that while he was 
amusing the people of Ferrara and their nobles 
with wild and sometimes extravagant legends, 
Florence had learnt to understand and relish the 
stern, sedate language of her Dante, of which the 
foundation was severe satiric truth, and the orna- 
ment and colouring only imaginative ; that there 
also the classic Petrarch, and the clear tasteful 
Boccaccio were the chief favourites of every class 
of people, while Lorenzo de' Medici and his friends 
had begun to make poetry the professed vehicle of 
philosophy, and almost to enthrone the latter on 
the hitherto opposed seat of the Muses. It is 
seldom we find opportunities of comparing the 
state or progress of literature in different provinces 
of the same country ; but the* literary history of 
Italy affords them in abundance, and is hence the 
most interesting of any in the world, enabling us to 
trace with no little degree of exactness, the in- 


fluence of political circumstances on the intellec- 
tual tastes and habits of the people, and furnishing 
more materials for solving the great question re- 
specting the connexion between certain forms of 
government and species of literature than any 
other whatever. 

Boiardo's minor poems, chiefly on the subject of 
his love, are written in a much more elegant and 
polished style than his " Orlando Innamorato," 
which has been accounted for by the superior care 
he took in the composition of the former, and the 
circumstance that he died before he could put the 
last hand to his larger work. Another reason might 
be found, perhaps, in the different nature of the two 
subjects. But it was not only as a poet that Boiardo 
was distinguished among the writers of his age : he 
was deeply learned in classical literature, and the 
following list of his works will show that he was 
not less erudite than many of the scholars who 
graced the palace of the Medici. 1. Apuleio delF 
Asino d' Oro, tradotto in Volgare. 2. L'Asino 
d' Oro St. Luciano. 3. Erodoto Alicarnasseo Is- 
torico, tradotto. 4. Chronicon Romanorum Impe- 
ratorum a Carolo Magno usque ad Othonem IV. 
5. Le Vite da Emilio Probo tradotte. 6. Carmen 
Bucolicon. 7. II Timone. 8. Sonetti e una Canzone. 
9. Cinque Capitoli. 10. Pastorali. 

Etfe of 

jAcopo SANNAZZARO was born at Naples on the 
twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth of July 1458, and 
was a descendant of the Sannazzari, a noble family 
of Pavia, of whom Dante makes mention in his 
Convivio. After, however, having enjoyed very 
large possessions in the kingdom of Naples, it was 
gradually stripped of the wealth acquired by the 
valour of its different members, and the father of 
our poet had only sufficient to support his family 
in the most moderate style of respectability. He 
lived but a few years after the birth of Jacopo, 
whom he left, with another son, to the care of their 
mother Masella, whose necessities obliged her to 


remove immediately to Nocera de' Pagani. From 
Giuniano Majo, a distinguished grammarian of 
Naples, he derived his earliest acquaintance with 
the Greek and Latin classics; and so great was his 
master's expectation of the reputation he would 
one day acquire by the talents he evinced, that 
he strongly persuaded Masella to fix her resi- 
dence at Naples, assuring her that whatever ex- 
ertions she made to finish the education of her son 
would be amply repaid in a few years. The advice 
of Giuniano was taken, nor was his prediction un- 
verified; but before Jacopo had completed his 
studies, he became enamoured of Carmosina Boni- 
facia, a lady of noble family. 

The passion he had evinced for poetry at an 
early period of his youth had now an object, and 
was speedily exercised in the composition of son- 
nets and canzoni. Such was the excellence of 
his verses, both Italian and Latin, that they at- 
tracted the attention of the Court, and Frederick, 
second son of Ferdinand the First, received him 
into his house, and became his affectionate friend 
and patron. To gratify the Prince's love of dra- 
matic representations, Sannazzaro composed several 
pieces in imitation of the ancient satires; among 
others, one intitled " Gliomero," containing all the 


words and phrases which were peculiar to the 
vulgar of Naples. By this and similar attentions 
to the wishes of his patron, and other noble per- 
sonages of the Court, he became a general fa- 
vourite, and obtained the regard of the King, and 
of Alfonso Duke of Calabria, whom he followed to 
the war in Tuscany.* 

On the accession of Prince Frederick to the 
throne, after the kingdom had suffered a series of 
ruinous troubles, Sannazzaro expected that standing 
as he did so high in the young monarch's favour, 
he should be promoted to some of the valuable offi- 
ces he had it in his power to distribute among his 
followers. He was, however, disappointed. Fre- 
derick gave away the governorship of towns with 
n liberal hand to other courtiers, but on the poet 
he only bestowed a pension of six hundred ducats 
and the villa Mergoglino. At first Sannazzaro com- 
plained bitterly of this treatment, and asked the 
King how it was that he had made him a poet to 
dispose of him as if he had been an agriculturist.f 
But the beauty of his retreat, and the enjoyment 
he found in the uninterrupted leisure it secured 
him, soon reconciled him to his lot, and his villa 
formed the favourite theme of his muse, and was 

* Volpi. t Ep. I. Lib. i. 


regarded in his later years with as great an affec- 
tion as if it had been the place of his birth. 

But it is probable, though the poet taught him- 
self contentment, and gave a value to the pro- 
vision made for him which did not in reality belong 
to it, that he had not been treated by the King with 
the attention their long intercourse had given him 
a right to expect. Whether, however, there was 
or was not unkindness on the part of the patron, 
the poet felt himself aggrieved, and this was suffi- 
cient to render his subsequent conduct worthy of 
no slight praise. Frederick, unable to support him- 
self on his throne, was obliged to seek an asylum 
in France ; most of his courtiers, as is usual in 
such cases, deserted him ; but among the few who 
had sufficient fidelity to accompany him to the land 
of his exile was Sannazzaro, and when there was 
scarcely another whom the changed fortunes of 
their master did not speedily disgust, he continued 
at his side, employing every means in his power to 
cheer him in his distresses. Among other instances 
of his affection was his selling a large portion of 
the property he inherited from his father, and giving 
the greater part of the sum it brought him to help 
the monarch in his necessities. To the last hour 
of the unfortunate Frederick's life, the attachment 


Sannazzaro thus evinced remained undiminished, 
and it was not till he had followed him to the 
grave that he could resolve upon returning to his 
own country. 

On his arrival in Italy he found the enemies of 
his master in the full enjoyment of the power of 
which they had despoiled him ; his feelings took 
fire at the sight of objects with which were asso- 
ciated the recollection of his patron's early kind- 
ness, and he attacked both the Pope and Duke 
Valentine in satires of uncommon virulence. He 
also refused the preferred friendship of the cele- 
brated Gonsalvo of Cordova, surnamed the Great 
Captain, and thus continued to show his decided 
attachment to the cause of Frederick as long as any 
reasonable opportunity could be found for thus ex- 
pressing it. 

His beloved Bonifacia died during his residence 
in France, and if we may judge from his manner 
of mentioning her in his poems, he regarded her 
loss as one of the heaviest afflictions he could have 
suffered. But he was not long, it appears, in find- 
ing consolation for this misfortune. He had no 
sooner taken up his residence in Naples, than his 
society was sought by all the principal personages 
of the Court and city ; and among the ladies of the 


former was one, the charms of whose person and 
conversation speedily captivated his heart. This 
lady's name was Cassandra, and she enjoyed the 
particular favour of the Queen, of whom she was 
the most intimate companion. Sannazzaro's attach- 
ment, however, was, it appears, entirely Platonic, 
otherwise it would be difficult to account for his 
employing the singular means he used to prove 
its fervour. Cassandra's accomplishments had in- 
spired the Marquis della Tripalda with a passion 
sufficiently strong to induce him to seek her hand 
in marriage. His offer was accepted by the lady, 
and the union was on the point of taking place, 
when the Marquis repented, and applied to the 
Pope for a dissolution of the contract. Sannazzaro, 
in the true spirit of Platonic chivalry, took up Cas- 
sandra's quarrel, and wrote to Bembo, begging him 
to use his utmost influence to prevent the nullify- 
ing of the marriage ; but his application was too 
late, and the lady remained free to receive his 
addresses in any form he might think proper to 
make them. He only continued, however, as be- 
fore, to show his devotion by the pleasure he took 
in her conversation, and praising her as the most 
accomplished of her sex. In one respect, perhaps, 
he equalled a more ardent lover. At a later period, 


on the removal of the Court to Somma, in conse- 
quence of the appearance of the plague at Naples, 
he and Cassandra also fixed their residence there, 
but the mansions in which they had apartments 
were more than a mile distant. Notwithstanding 
this, Sannazzaro, who at the time was near seventy 
years of age, never suffered a day to pass without 
walking to see his mistress, whose smiles and con- 
versation were considered amply sufficient to re- 
ward him for his pains. 

But amid all other circumstances he never suf- 
fered himself to lose sight of his literary reputa- 
tion. The " Arcadia," a mixture of pastoral prose 
and poetry, and various sonnets and other miscel- 
laneous pieces, had long employed his attention, 
and contributed to establish him in a respectable 
rank among the writers of his country ; but Latin 
poetry was the fashion of the age, and he feared 
that, unless he left some monument of his skill in 
classical composition behind him, his name would 
be speedily forgotten. With this idea in his mind 
he began his poem entitled " De Partu Virginis," 
and continued it with a degree of patience and 
care scarcely credible. One of his most intimate 
friends was a gentleman named Poderico, blind and 
greatly advanced in years, but remarkable for his 


elegant taste and his acquaintance with the best 
authors of antiquity. To him Sannazzaro read every 
passage of his poem as he composed it, and such 
was the nicety of the critic's ear and the cau- 
tion of the author that the latter would write as 
many as ten separate lines to express the same idea, 
leaving it to the choice of his friend which should 
stand in the poem. Twenty years were expended in 
this manner before the work was finished, and when 
it is considered how confined the reputation is which 
Sannazzaro enjoys on account of the " De Partu 
Virginis," we can scarcely find a better instance to 
prove the folly of such a wasteful expenditure of 
time and ingenuity. The poem was first inscribed 
in .1521 to Leo X., the great patron of classical 
learning; but as he died before the author could 
reap the advantages he expected from his patron- 
age, he dedicated it in 1527 to his successor Cle- 
ment VII. He was ever destined, however, to suffer 
disappointment in his hopes of gain. Clement ex- 
pressed his gratification on receiving the poem, and 
added, that he should be happy to see Sannazzaro at 
Rome whenever he could find an opportunity to 
visit him, but he gave him neither office nor pen- 
sion. This disappointment, however, was not the 
only source of the uneasiness which occasionally 


disturbed his otherwise not untranquil life. When 
the Prince of Orange fixed his quarters at Naples, 
the French General, Lutrec, in preparing for the 
siege of the city, posted his guard in the Villa Mer- 
goglino and its neighbourhood. The Prince, con- 
sidering this position to be too advantageous to 
leave it in the hands of the enemy, sent a detach- 
ment of his troops to destroy the villa and what- 
ever building might serve as a shelter or defence 
for the French. But the reasons which convinced 
the Prince of Orange of the necessity of this mea- 
sure made no impression on the mind of the poet, 
who, on seeing his favourite residence in ruins, 
conceived the most implacable dislike against its 
destroyer. So virulent were his feelings, that his 
anger continued undiminished to the hour of his 
death; and it is said that being told, as he was 
on the point of expiring, of the Prince's having 
fallen in battle, he declared that he could die 
easy, as that wretch had met with his deserts. 
The death of Sannazzaro took place about the year 
1532, and he was buried in a chapel he had built 
upon the site of his ruined villa, and to which his 
name and remains have given an additional conse- 
cration. His personal character appears to have 
been compounded of the usual number of human 
VOL. n. c 


failings blended with a due proportion of good 
qualities. He was devotedly faithful to his friends, 
and bold in expressing his sentiments in their fa- 
vour ; but he was violently passionate and resentful 
against the persons who did any thing to provoke 
his anger. He was commonly accused of mean- 
ness in his manner of living, but his generosity to 
his master in distress more than counterbalanced 
any fault of this kind, even were it rightly laid to 
his charge, which may be doubted; while in matters 
of religion, his founding a convent and erecting two 
chapels on the site of Mergoglino prove that he 
was not deficient in feelings of devotion or in readi- 
ness to show them. His conversation is said to 
have been lively and ingenious, and some of his 
witticisms have been preserved. On being present 
one day when several persons, and among others 
some medical men, were discussing which was the 
most general disease, he offered to decide the dis- 
pute, and, on being asked to do so, he replied, that 
the fever of. hope killed more persons than any 
other. On a similar occasion, when some physicians 
were consulting as to what remedy was the best 
for weakness of sight, he observed, that envy was 
more likely than any thing else to quicken the 
power of vision. Of those whom he saw foolishly 


proud of a noble ancestry, he said, that they were 
like persons who dressed themselves up for a 
masquerade in royal robes. When any allusion 
was made to the popularity of his Arcadia, he 
never expressed any feeling of gratification at the 
circumstance ; and on being asked the reason of 
this indifference, he replied, that there is little 
security for the fame which has no better founda- 
tion than the praise of the vulgar. In his person 
he was above the middle stature, but being lame 
his height was not perceived ; and, like the great 
Petrarch, he became gray at a very early age. 

As a poet, Sannazzaro rested his chief claim 
to consideration on his Latin poem, De Partu 
Virginis, and on his Arcadia in Italian ; but his 
miscellaneous pieces, and more especially his 
celebrated Piscatory Eclogues, are ingenious and 
elegant. The " De Partu Virginis " is rightly re- 
garded as among the most perfect specimens of 
classical composition of which modern times can 
boast ; and when it is considered how difficult it is 
to explain the mysteries of theology in verse in 
any language, and how much more so in one which 
contains no phrases originally proper for the pur- 
pose, Sannazzaro will be allowed to merit all the 
praise he has received for the " De Partu Vir- 
c 2 


ginis." Vida alone, who was contemporary with 
him, and published the Christiade about the same 
period, rivals him in the elegance and propriety 
of his language, but to these two accomplished 
writers belong, by general consent, the brightest 
laurel of the modern Latin Muse. 

The Arcadia places Sannazzaro in a still more 
elevated situation, as it was the first pastoral poem 
of any importance produced in Italy ; and to the 
popularity it acquired and the real beauty of many 
of its passages, may, in a great measure, be as- 
cribed the exquisite compositions of a similar kind 
which subsequently enriched the poetical literature 
of the South. 

Htfe of &rfo*to* 

THE family of Ariosto was settled at Bologna in 
very remote times, and is said to have sprung from 
the Aristi, or Aravisti. Though this idea is con- 
troverted by most of the authors who have treated 
of his genealogy, the antiquity of his race is un- 
disputed, as is also the immediate cause of the dis- 
tinctions enjoyed by his father and other relatives. 
On the marriage of Lippa Ariosto with Obizzo III. 
Marquis of Este, that lady, as celebrated for her 
attachment to her family as for her singular beauty 
and accomplishments, persuaded most of her friends 
to remove with her to Ferrara, where they were 
established by her influence in many important 


offices. Niccolo, the father of the poet, increased 
the honour of the family, and after having bfeen sent 
several times ambassador to the Pope, and filled 
the highest stations in the Court, was, at length 
chosen governor of Reggio. While in this situa- 
tion he married Daria, a lady of the Malaguzzi 
family, the noblest in Reggio, and on the 8th of 
September 1474, she gave birth to her first child, 
the celebrated subject of this memoir.* 

The youth of Lodovico was rendered remarkable 
by his early passion for works of imagination, and 
while still employed about the elements of learning, 
he composed a little drama from the story of Py- 
ramus and Thisbe, and taught his brothers and 
sisters to perform it. Niccolo saw with satisfaction 
these indications of his son's genius, but his for- 
tune, though respectable, was not great, and his 
family in a few years had increased to five sons 
and five daughters. Seeing, therefore, little hope 
of independence for Lodovico, he destined him to 
the study of the civil and canon law, the usual 
resource in that day for men of talent and family 
but little wealth. By the time he was fifteen, he 
was considered sufficiently advanced in the know- 
ledge of Latin and the other rudiments of education 

* Fornari. Pigna. Barotti : Letterati Ferraresi. 


to be sent to Padua, where he spent five years, striv- 
ing in vain to master his hatred of jurisprudence, 
and employing the chief part of his time in the 
perusal of French and Spanish romances. There 
appears, indeed, reason to believe that he almost to- 
tally neglected even the study of the classics during 
this period. Before he removed to the university, 
he was celebrated among his friends for skill in 
Latin ; and Tito Strozza, a man of rank, used to 
amuse himself by provoking learned disputes be- 
tween his own son, a boy of the same age, and 
Lodovico. It also is said to have been either before 
or shortly after his removal to Padua, that he 
pronounced a Latin oration, which delighted all 
who heard it by the propriety and elegance of the 
language ; w T hile in one of his satires, on the other 
hand, in which he alludes to his unprofitable resi- 
dence at the university, he describes himself as 
scarcely able to construe the fables of ^Esop. 

From a fear probably that his son might entirely 
lose his taste for study if he confined him to that 
of the law, Niccolo was induced to desist from his 
intended plans. Having seen him, therefore, reach 
the age of twenty without exhibiting any signs of 
legal ability, he had the good sense to call him home, 
and again free him to the cultivation of general 


literature. This, however, does not appear to have 
been done till he had employed his authority and 
reproofs, again and again, to no purpose. Lodovico 
cherished the most respectful affection for his pa- 
rent, but in this one point he strove in vain to 
exercise it, and perhaps considered it as a duty by 
no means imperative to sacrifice his feelings and 
the peace of his life to the hope of making a for- 
tune. A curious anecdote is related to show how 
impenetrable he was to all exhortations on the 
subject. It happened one day that Niccolo was 
more than usually severe in expressing himself 
respecting the indifference and idleness of which he 
was guilty. The young poet seemed to listen atten- 
tively, but made no attempt at defending himself, 
till his father went out of the room, when his 
brother Gabriel, who had been present at the in- 
terview, renewed the attack. On this, the accused 
commenced a serious argument on the points in 
dispute, and made out so clear a case, that his 
brother asked in astonishment, why he had not 
answered his father in a similar manner ! " Be- 
cause," replied Lodovico, " while he was storming, 
my mind was wholly occupied with observing his 
words and actions, for in a scene of the play I am 


writing, I introduce a young man and his father 
disputing as we have been." 

As soon as he had obtained his release, which 
he is said to have owed in some measure to the 
intercession of his relative Pandolfo Ariosto, he 
put himself under the instruction of Gregorio da 
Spoleti, then residing at Ferrara, and who was 
equally skilled in the Latin and Greek classics. 
Lodovico at first confined his attention solely to 
the former, the miserable style in which the law 
commentaries were written, having conspired with 
his own idleness to destroy his previous facility in 
Latin composition. The progress he made with 
Gregorio was proportionable to his own talent and 
the eminent ability of his tutor. He read the best 
of the Roman poets with the most critical atten- 
tion, Horace occupying the first place in his esti- 
mation, and Plautus and Terence the next. His 
love of dramatic composition seems indeed to have 
been always great. The first effort of his mind 
was the little play above mentioned, and to his 
latest years he continued to recreate himself by 
similar pursuits. The fruits of his present studies 
appeared in the form of two dramas, the one called 
" La Cassaria," the other " I Suppositi," the cha- 


racters of which he persuaded his brothers and 
sisters to represent, and usually had them acted 
whenever his father and mother went from home. 
Unfortunately for him, Gregorio was called from 
Ferrara by Isabella of Naples, who appointed him 
preceptor to her son, and Lodovico was left without 
the present means of gaining instruction in Greek. 
To the regret he experienced at losing his master 
was added that of hearing soon after of his decease ; 
but scarcely had he recovered from the distress 
he felt at this circumstance, when the death of his 
father put an end for some time to all his literary 
thoughts and pursuits. He has pathetically de- 
scribed his situation at this period in his sixth 
Satire, which contains several allusions both to the 
present and previous circumstances of his life. 

Mi more il padre, e da Maria il pensiero 

Drietro a Marta bisogna, ch* io rivolga ; 

Ch' io muti in squarci, ed in vacchette Omero : 
Trovi marito, e modo, che si tolga 

Di casa una sorella, e un' altra appresso ; 

E che 1' eredita non se ne dolga : 
Coi piccioli fratelli, ai quai successo 

Era in luogo di padre, far 1'ufficio, 

Che debito, e pieta m'avea commesso. 
A chi studio, a chi corte, a chi esercizio 

Altro procure che nel fin non pieghi 


Da le virtudi il molle animo al vitio. 
Ne questo e solo, ch' a li miei studj nieghi, 
Di piu avanzarsi, e basti, che la barca, 
Perche non torni a dietro, al lito leghi. 

My father dies ; thenceforth with care oppress 'd 
New thoughts and feelings fill my harass'd breast ; 
Homer gives way to lawyers and their deeds, 
And all a brother's love within me pleads : 
Fit suitors found, two sisters soon are wed, 
And to the altar without portions led. 
With all the wants and wishes of their age 
My little brothers next my thoughts engage, 
And in their father's place I strive untired 
To do whate'er that father's love inspired. 
Thus watching how their several wills incline 
In courts, in study, or in arms to shine ; 
No toil I shun their fair pursuits to aid, 
Still of the snares that strew their path afraid. 
Nor this alone though press we quick to land, 
The bark 's not safe till anchor'd on the strand. 

The duties which he thus describes himself as 
having to encounter on the death of his father, he 
performed, though still but twenty-four years of 
age, with the attention and prudence of a man long 
accustomed to the cares of a family. So entirely 
were his thoughts engrossed by these occupations, 
that he neglected all the pursuits which were most 


agreeable to his taste. Neither Greek nor Latin 
was allowed to interfere with the claims of his 
brothers and sisters, and it was not till his friend 
Pandolfo persuaded him to resume his studies, that 
he again turned over the pages of his forsaken 
Horace. Scarcely, however, had the spark of lite- 
rary ambition been re-awakened, when he was de- 
prived of his affectionate kinsman by death, which 
affected him so deeply that he was on the verge 
of despair.* 

But he was now twenty-nine years of age, and 
his Latin verses, together with some poems in 
Italian, remarkable for their tenderness and spirit, 
had recommended him to the notice of literary 
men of eminence. His reputation for talent was 
in a short time generally diffused, and at length 
obtained him the patronage of the Cardinal Ippolito 
of Este, into whose service he entered soon after 
the death of Pandolfo.f He speaks, however, in 
the Satire already quoted, as if he felt the neces- 
sity which led him to this connexion as the great- 
est evil he ever suffered. " To the death of my 
father and friend," says he, " was added this, that 
I should be oppressed with the yoke of the Car- 
dinal d' Este." 

* Fornari. t Garofalo. 


To the annoyances, however, which attended his 
capacity as a courtier, might be opposed the op- 
portunities he enjoyed of conversing with a suc- 
cession of learned and accomplished men, whom 
Ippolito was proud to see in his palace. Assisted 
by their advice, and animated to emulation by the 
honour in which they were held, he continued to 
cultivate his genius with new ardour, and, in his 
thirtieth year, conceived the idea of writing a 
poem which should place him among the cele- 
brated bards of his country. He was long doubt- 
ful as to what subject would be most suited to 
his genius, and at the same time answer the pur- 
pose of a compliment to his patron, the Cardinal, 
and the other members of the house of Este. His 
first intention was to celebrate the actions of Obizo, 
a young warrior of that family, who had greatly 
distinguished himself in the struggle between 
Philip-le-bel and our King Edward. He even be- 
gan a poem on this subject, in the terza rima of 
Dante, but he found, it is probable, not only the 
verse unsuited to the style of an epic, but the plan 
too confined for his fertile and wandering ima- 
gination. Soon growing weary, therefore, of this 
design, he next directed his attention to the 
unfinished poem of Boiardo, which was read with 


universal delight, and had gained so complete an 
ascendancy over public taste, that every other spe- 
cies of poetry is said to have been wholly neglect- 
ed.* His long study of the old romance writers, 
and the peculiar turn they had given his genius, 
rendered the subject of Boiardo's Orlando the 
most fascinating that could have been presented 
to his fancy ; and he quickly saw that the poem 
might be continued in such a manner as not only 
to include the most flattering praises of his patrons, 
but to secure even a greater degree of popularity 
than that obtained by his predecessor. These con- 
siderations were sufficient to determine him as to 
a subject ; and, taking the Orlando Innamorato for 
the supposed commencement of his poem, he re- 
solved to continue the adventures of the principal 
personages till he brought them out of the laby- 
rinth in which Boiardo had left them. 

Having collected the materials which were to 
form the ground-work of his poem, he commenced 
its composition. Bembo, with whom he lived on 
terms of close intimacy, strongly persuaded him to 
write it in Latin verse, of which he said he was 
more perfectly master than Italian, adding, that if 
he did so, he would obtain a much greater reputa- 

* Garofalo. 


tion than otherwise. Ariosto replied, that he 
should prefer being one of the first writers in the 
Tuscan language to occupying scarcely a secondary 
place among those who wrote in Latin.* 

He had not proceeded far in his work, when he 
was interrupted by an invitation from Alphonso, 
the Duke of Ferrara, and brother of the Cardinal 
Ippolito, to undertake an embassy to the Pope, 
Julius the Second. The object of this mission was 
to avert, if possible, the threatened vengeance of 
the Pontiff against Ferrara. Ariosto was received 
at Rome with respect, and obtained a more en- 
couraging answer than had been expected. The 
Duke, on his return, highly applauded him for the 
manner in which he had conducted the affair ; but 
the hopes they had conceived from the reply of 
Julius proved vain, and the Ambassador had hardly 
delivered his message, when the river Po was seen 
covered with an armament composed of Papal and 
Venetian forces. . A desperate engagement en- 
sued between the hostile fleet and that which Al- 
phonso immediately sent to oppose its progress. 
Ariosto was present in the battle, and rendered ad- 
ditional service to his employer, by taking one of 
the enemy's largest vessels. 

* Idem. 


The enterprize of Julius terminated in his com- 
plete defeat : but he was still to be dreaded, and 
Alphonso seems to have trembled at having won 
the victory. Still anxious, therefore, to obtain 
peace with the head of the Church, he determined 
upon sending another embassy to effect that de- 
sirable object. But it was not easy to find any 
one sufficiently bold to undertake the commission. 
One courtier after another manifested his unwill- 
ingness to expose himself to the fury of Julius, 
still raging at the disgrace of his defeat ; and the 
Duke saw himself in the most unpleasant dilemma, 
till our poet again volunteered his services. To 
Rome accordingly he repaired ; but, instead of the 
respect shown him on the former occasion, he was 
given to understand, by some secret adviser, that 
unless he made his escape from the city with the 
greatest speed and caution, his life would fall a 
sacrifice to his temerity. He obeyed the intima- 
tion, and reached Ferrara in safety.* 

On the accession of Leo X. to the Pontifical 
throne, in 1513, Ariosto conceived the most sanguine 
hopes that his fortune would be considerably im- 
proved. He had been long known to Leo and others 
of the Medici, and seems to have kept up an inter- 

* Garofalo. 


course with them which warranted his expectation 
of patronage as soon as the condition of their affairs 
might put it in their power to serve him. Leo, 
therefore, was no sooner installed in his high office 
than Ariosto hastened to Rome; nor was he dis- 
couraged by the reception which he met with on 
his arrival. The Pontiff, as he has described in 
one of his Satires, gave him his hand and em- 
braced him with every sign of cordial esteem ; but 
his kindness went no farther, except to grant him 
a Bull or licence for the publication of the Or- 
lando ; and the disappointed poet, seeing no indi- 
cations that his company was longer desired, left 
Rome the day after his arrival, preferring to sup 
at a little inn, a few miles distant from the city, to 
staying in the neighbourhood of a court where he saw 
himself treated with so much neglect. He returned 
by way of Florence, which he visited, it is supposed, 
for the sake of being present at the spectacles 
exhibited on the festival of St. John the Baptist. 
A more important object, however, is assigned by 
some authors as the cause of this visit, and the 
poet is represented as spending months and even 
years there in order to perfect himself in the Tus- 
can dialect.* It is not easy to decide which of 

* Salviati. Mazzuchelli. 


these opinions merits most attention; it is not 
impossible that Ariosto visited Florence with the 
intention of being present at the festival, so attrac- 
tive to a man of his chivalrous imagination, and 
that he remained there some months after, not 
forgetting during his stay to study the niceties of 
his language, if there were any of which he was 
not yet perfect master. It is supposed that he 
had spent some time at Florence before this period, 
and had probably many acquaintances in the city. 
At the period of which we are speaking, he resided 
in the house of a gentleman named Niccolo Ves- 
pucci, and there became acquainted, as is gene- 
rally believed, with the beautiful Alessandra, a 
relation of his host, and who seems to have capti- 
vated his heart as she sat making a scarf for one of 
her sons who was to appear in the tournament.* 

He seems to have enjoyed, after these occur- 
rences, sufficient leisure to attend to the compo- 
sition of his poem, so inopportunely interrupted at 
its commencement : and, though often called upon 
by the Cardinal to execute business foreign to his 
taste, he pursued his favourite occupation with un- 
remitted steadiness. At length, in the year 1515, 
he had so far completed his design, as to allow of 

* Orlando Furioso, c. 42. st. 93. 


his presenting the work to the public ; and either 
in this or the following year the first edition was 
printed at Ferrara. The poem, however, as it 
then appeared, was far from being such as he de- 
sired. He regarded it as incomplete, both in its 
plan and style ; and the reason he alleged for 
bringing it thus imperfect before the world, was 
his anxious desire to discover what would be the 
opinion of the public respecting its merits, and to 
obtain the criticisms of eminent scholars in dif- 
ferent parts of Europe.* But whatever praise he 
obtained from others, he certainly met with no en- 
couragement from the Cardinal. On his present- 
ing him with a copy of the work, that worthy 
Churchman rudely asked him " Where he had col- 
lected such a mass of fooleries ?" 

Soon after this occurrence, a circumstance hap- 
pened which put an end to their connection. Ip- 
polito, in the year 1518, was preparing for a 
journey to his Bishopric of Buda, in Hungary, 
and, desirous of seeing himself surrounded by as 
splendid a retinue as possible, he invited Ariosto 
to accompany him. But neither the health of the 
poet nor his inclination rendered the prospect of 
such a journey agreeable, and he decidedly re- 

* Garofalo. 


fused to leave his country. The arguments he 
offered in excuse of this refusal, availed nothing 
with his haughty patron, who, on leaving Ferrara, is 
said to have manifested towards him the strongest 
dislike, which soon after appeared in actions that 
could only have resulted from a confirmed hatred. 

The fortune which Niccolo left among his ten 
children afforded but a small portion for each, and 
Ariosto had mainly depended upon the patron- 
age of the Cardinal for support. It would, in- 
deed, be difficult to believe that a man of his free 
and noble mind, and so fond of retirement, would 
have subjected himself to the annoyances of de- 
pendance, could he have lived without it in any 
manner befitting his station. Nor did the service 
which Ippolito exacted of his followers consist of 
mere flattering attentions to his dignity. They 
were expected to attend his summons at all hours 
of the night, and the commissions with which he 
charged them were frequently dangerous as well 
as fatiguing. That Ariosto would have suffered 
his quiet to be thus broken, is only to be account- 
ed for as above ; and, when he separated from the 
Cardinal, he found himself in a situation far from 
enviable. The twenty-five scudi which he had re- 
ceived as a sort of pension every four months, 



were no longer remitted him; and the loss of this, 
though a small sum in return for the services of 
such a man, was a considerable abridgement of his 
means of support, even in retirement. 

But the journey to Hungary presented so many 
horrors to his fancy that he willingly resigned both 
his pension and all farther hopes of patronage 
rather than undertake it. A dislike of travelling, of 
changing his habits of living, or even his diet, was 
one of the peculiarities of his character, and Hun- 
gary, of all parts of the world, seemed to threaten 
him with evils of this sort in greatest abundance. 
Contentedly resigning himself, therefore, to his 
present fortunes, he resolved to bid adieu to courts 
and patrons, and wholly occupy his time with revis- 
ing and enlarging his poem and other similar pur- 
suits. To be the freer from interruptions, and at 
the same time render his moderate income equal 
to his support, he left Ferrara and took up his resi- 
dence on an estate belonging to his kinsman Mala- 
guzzo, between Reggio and Rubiera. He has de- 
scribed this retreat, and the pleasant manner in 
which he spent his time during his short residence 
there, in his fifth Satire ; but it is disputed whe- 
ther the account alludes to this or an earlier period 
of his life. 


Gia mi fur' dolci inviti a empir le carte 
I luoghi ameni, di che 11 nostro Rheggio 

E'l natio nido mio n' ha la sua parte : 

II tuo Mauritian sempre vaghegghio 
La bella stanza, e '1 Rodano vicino, 

Da le Naiade amato ombroso seggio : 

II lucido vivaio, onde il giardino 
. Si cinge intorno, il fresco rio che corre 

Rigando 1' erbe, ove poi fa il molino. 

N on mi si po de la memoiia torre 

Le vigne, e i solchi del fecondo lacco, 

Le valle e '1 colle, e la ben posta torre. 

Time was when by sweet solitude inclined 
The storied page I fill'd with ready mind ; 
Those gentle scenes of Reggio's fair domain, 
Our own dear nest, where peace and nature reign ; 
The lovely villa and the neighbouring Rhone, 
Whose banks the Naiads haunt serene and lone ; 
The lucid pool whence small fresh streams distil 
That glad the garden round and turn the mill ; 
Still memory loves upon these scenes to dwell, 
Still sees the vines with fruit delicious swell, 
Luxurious meadows blooming spread around, 
Low winding vales and hills with turrets crown'd. 

The death of the Cardinal Ippolito, who did not 
live to return from Hungary, produced another 
change in his fortunes. The Duke Alphonso, seeing 
him left without a patron and provided with so 


small an income, invited him to return to Ferrara, 
which he did, and found no reason, it is said, to 
regret that he had once more put himself under 
the protection of the house of Este. Alphonso, 
knowing his love of retirement and the peculiarity 
of his habits, promised to leave him at perfect 
liberty to pursue his studies and live in the way 
that most suited his wishes. He kept his promise, 
and there is reason to believe that the presents he 
bestowed on the poet enabled him to build the 
cottage in which he resided, with few interruptions, 
till his death. This favourite house of Ariosto's 
was situated near the church of S. Benedetto, and 
stood in the midst of a spacious garden which 
formed both his pride and delight. Here he con- 
tinued to compose additional cantos to the " Or- 
lando Furioso," and occasionally, to relax his mind 
with lighter species of poetry, sometimes writ- 
ing a satire, and at others reverting to the come- 
dies composed in his younger years, and which he 
subsequently made fit for the stage. 

The caution with which he proceeded in his 
larger poem rendered the work of revision long 
and painful. After having done every thing in 
his power to improve a passage, he would still be 
doubtful as to its correctness, till Bembo or some 



other literary friend had united their judgment 
with his own. The reason alleged for this extreme 
particularity is curious ; " not having had a master 
in his younger days," says one of his biographers, 
" to guide him to the highest perfection of the art, 
he desired to supply that defect by the company of 
worthy and enlightened men." * 

But even now his tranquillity was not perma- 
nent. Alphonso employed him in various affairs of 
importance, which drew him from his home, and 
prevented, for a time, the prosecution of his poetical 
labours. These interruptions, however, were brief, 
and he returned to his quiet residence still better 
prepared to delight in its repose and security. A 
much worse hinderance to his comfort was the 
smallness of his income. He had received from 
the Duke the grant of a small annual sum resulting 
from one of the public taxes, but the tax was taken 
off and the poet left without any remuneration for 
the loss of his little revenue. A portion also of 
the property which had descended from his ances- 
tors was claimed on the one side by a distant rela- 
tion, a monk, and on the other by the ducal cham- 
ber, as of right belonging to the State. The first 
judge who tried the cause, instituted in conse- 

* Fornari. 


quence of these different claims, was Ariosto's per- 
sonal enemy; and the second had sufficient cunning 
to persuade him to give up the contest without 
fairly pressing his pretensions. At length, how- 
ever, a field was found for the employment of his 
abilities as a man of business. The territory of Gar- 
fagnana, which had placed itself under Alphonso's 
protection, was everywhere infested with dan- 
gerous hordes of banditti, and required the pre- 
sence of a vigilant magistrate. Ariosto was chosen 
by the Duke as commissary for the distracted pro- 
vince ; but it is not easy to explain the reasons 
which led to such an appointment. He thus speaks 
of it in his fourth satire : 

Ricorsi al Duca, o voi Signer levarmi 
Dovete di bisogno, o non v' incresca, 
Ch' io vada altra pastura a procacciarmi. 

Grafagnini in quel tempo, essendo fresca 
La lor revoluzion, che spinto fuori 
Avean Marzocco a procacciar d' altr' esca. 

Con lettere frequenti, e ambasciatori 
Replicavano al Duca, e facean fretta 
D' aver lor capi, e loro usati onori. 

Fu di me fatta una improvvisa eletta, 
O fosse, perche il termine era breve 
Di consigliar chi pel miglior si metta : 
D 2 


O pur fu appresso il mio Signer piu leve 

II bisogno de' sudditi, che '1 mio ; 

Di ch' oblige gli ho, quanto se gli deve. 
Obligo gli ho del buon voler, piu ch' io 

Mi contend del dono, il quale e grande 

Ma non molto conforme al mio desio. 

Compelled at length I next the Duke address'd 

Or aid me now, or thus, with want oppress'd, 

Let me depart elsewhere to seek relief. 

Just then Marzocco, Garfagnana's chief, 

Driven from the state, had left the people free 

To choose their prince, and better laws decree. 

Anxious to gain the Duke's support, they send 

Ambassadors and letters without end ; 

And thus importunate they still implore 

That he the rule would take and peace restore. 

He yields and calls me to the post ; but why, 

'Twere hard, I own, to give a clear reply : 

From haste, perchance perchance from greater zeal 

To seek his servant's than his people's weal 

"Whate'er the cause, I thank him as I ought, 

The kindness great, though small the good it wrought. 

It seems probable, from these lines, that the 
prudence and experience of the poet were superior 
to those of most of the other courtiers ; and, on 
the other hand, that this was the most profitable 
office with which his master, at that time, could 


reward his services. The serious diminution also of 
his small property rendered him, in some measure, 
uneasy as to a provision for his declining years ; 
and, when it is considered that he was deprived 
of the disputed lands by a law-suit, instituted by 
the Government, and that Alphonso attempted no- 
thing in his favour, the probability is increased 
that he was offered and accepted the appointment 
to Garfagnana as a compensation for his loss, and 
as the only means of bettering his fortunes. 

But however this may be, he proceeded to his 
station, and pursued his measures with so much 
care and ability, that a considerable improvement 
was quickly visible in the condition of the province. 
He not only succeeded in restoring tranquillity, 
but obtained the affections of the people, who re- 
garded his person with a respect amounting to 
veneration. A singular instance is on record illus- 
trative of the popularity he enjoyed : being obliged 
one day to pass over a wild part of the district, 
the forests of which were known to be the resort 
of banditti, led by the celebrated chiefs Dominico 
Marocco and Filippo Pacchione, he was somewhat 
disconcerted at seeing his path crossed by a large 
body of armed men coming out of the woods. As 
he was attended by only six followers, resistance 


to an attack he knew would be vain. Neither 
he nor his party, however, encountered any in- 
terruption till his servant, who had loitered be- 
hind, on coming up, was asked by one of the ban- 
ditti who the gentleman was that had just passed 
them. Being answered that it was Ariosto the 
poet, he immediately spurred his horse forward, 
and, pulling off his hat as he approached him, said 
that he was Filippo Pacchione, and was come to 
apologize for having suffered so great a man as 
Ariosto to pass him unsaluted.* A story very 
similar to this is quoted by Hoole from Baretti's 
preface to his Italian Library. The translator con- 
siders it as the same incident told in a different 
manner : but the state of the people of. Garfag- 
nana was sufficiently unsettled to allow of their 
commissary's being more than once exposed to the 
danger of interruption by banditti. " Ariosto," 
says Baretti, " took up his residence in a fortified 
castle, from which it was imprudent to step out 
without guards, as the whole neighbourhood was 
swarming with outlaws, smugglers, and banditti; 
who, after committing the most enormous excesses 
all around, retired for shelter against justice amidst 

* Garofalo. 


the rocks and cliffs. Ariosto, one morning, hap- 
pened to take a walk without the castle, in his 
night-gown, and in a fit of thought forgot himself 
so much, that, step by step, he found himself very 
far from his habitation, and surrounded on a sud- 
den by a troop of these desperadoes, who certainly 
would have ill used, and perhaps murdered him, 
had not his face been known by one of the gang, 
who informing his comrades that this was Signor 
Ariosto, the chief of the banditti addressed him 
with intrepid gallantry, and told him, that since he 
was the author of the Orlando Furioso, he might be 
sure none of the company would injure him ; but 
would see him, on the contrary, safe back to the 
castle. And so they did, entertaining him all 
along the way with the various excellencies they 
had discovered in his poem, and bestowing upon it 
the most rapturous praises : a very rare proof of 
the irresistible powers of poetry, and a noble com- 
ment on the fable of Orpheus and Amphion, who 
drew wild beasts and raised walls with the en- 
chanting sound of their lyres." On another oc- 
casion, having to meet a person on business at 
Lucca, he was accosted, on his arrival there, by a 
numerous body of the most respectable persons 


of the neighbourhood, who had assembled for the 
purpose of showing him respect, and had also pre- 
pared a splendid banquet in his honour.* 

Having spent three years in Garfagnana, he re- 
turned to Ferrara, but not till after he had received 
several letters from his friend Pistofolo, the Duke's 
chief minister, in vain persuading him to accept 
the office of Ambassador to the Pontifical Courtf 
Besides his disinclination to travel, another reason 
is assigned for his refusal to visit Rome, the See 
of which was now possessed by Clement VII., his 
known friend and admirer. This additional motive 
for his love of home was, according to common 
report, his strong attachment to a lady of Ferrara ; 
but none of his biographers have been able to say 
who she was, or to throw any light upon the cir- 
cumstances of his connection with her. The only 
fact known with certainty is, that he had two 
sons, Virginio and Giovanna Battista ; but whether 
they were borne him by the lady alluded to, or 
were the offspring of a former amour, is not 
decided. It has been asserted, that he was se- 
cretly married, and that his wife was the Ales- 
sandra mentioned in his poems ; while the per- 
fect silence which he preserved respecting this 

* Fornari. t Mazzuchelli. 


union, is supposed to he accounted for by the cir- 
cumstance of his holding preferments in the 
Church, of which the publicity of his marriage 
would have deprived him. By far the greater 
number of authors, however, who have treated of 
his life, observe that his two sons were never re- 
garded as other than illegitimate. 

On his return to Ferrara he again established 
himself, with his two unmarried sisters, in the 
house he had built near the church of Saint Be- 
nedict, and resumed his former occupations. Of 
his lighter amusements, gardening was that in 
which he took most pleasure ; and it is curious 
to know that he was as fond of altering the plan 
of both his house and grounds, as he was of re- 
modelling the stanzas of the Orlando. His son 
Virginio proposed writing an account of his illus- 
trious father's life ; but, unfortunately, he never 
pursued his design beyond the commencement, and 
a few memorandums are all that have come down 
to us. From these, however, we learn the sin- 
gular fastidiousness of Ariosto in his horticultural 
amusements, and some other traits of his charac- 
ter, which render him not the less an object of our 
veneration, by showing us the simplicity as well 
as power of his mind. " In gardening," says Virgi- 
D 5 


nio, " he pursued the same plan as with his verses, 
never leaving any thing he had planted more than 
three months in the same place : and, if he set a 
fruit-tree, or sowed seed of any kind, he would go 
so often to examine it, and see if it were growing, 
that he generally ended with spoiling or breaking 
off the bud. As his knowledge also of flowers was 
very limited, he many times mistook the plants 
which might be springing up by chance in the 
neighbourhood, for those he had set, and he would 
watch them with the greatest care till he was put 
beyond doubt as to his mistake. I remember, that 
having once sown some caper-seed, he went every 
day to see what progress they were making, and 
was delighted, in a short time, with observing that 
they flourished extraordinarily well : he at last, 
however, discovered, that he had mistaken a young 
elder-bush for his capers, and that his plants were 
not yet above ground." 

We learn, from the same interesting document, 
that he had at first no intention of building a house 
for constant residence in this garden, but that, 
having raised a mere cottage for temporary shelter, 
he grew so fond of the spot, that he wished never 
to leave it. The structure, after all, was not fully 
suited to his taste, and he felt as great an in- 


clination to improve it by continual alterations as 
his garden. His constant lamentation was, that 
he could not change the arrangement of his house 
as he could that of his verses ; and a person hav- 
ing asked him one day, how it happened that he 
who could describe castles and palaces so mag- 
nificently, had built such a cottage, he replied, 
that he made his verses without the aid of money. 
That he was not a little proud, however, of his 
small but pleasant retreat, is proved by his putting 
an inscription over the door, signifying its con- 
venience and adaptation to his circumstances : 

" Parva sed apta mihi, sed nulli obnoxia, sed non 
Sordida, parta meo sed tamen aere domus." 

In his favourite garden he passed many hours 
of the day, deriving new inspiration from its green 
and refreshing solitudes. The Orlando was still 
in progress, and still under correction, his confi- 
dence in himself, it seems, having been little in- 
creased either by years or practice. In speaking, 
however, on this subject, he was accustomed to say, 
that poetry might be compared to a laurel, which 
sprung up of itself, and which might be greatly 
improved by cultivation, but would lose all its 
natural beauty if too much meddled with : this 


is the case, he would continue, with stanzas, which 
come into the mind, we know not how, and which 
may be improved by the correction of a little 
original roughness, but are deprived of all their 
grace and freshness by too nice a handling. A 
story illustrative of his feelings on a similar point, is 
told by Sir John Harrington in his " Life of Ari- 
osto," appended to his translation, and which, he in- 
forms us, l was briefly and compendiously gathered 
out of sundry Italian writers.' " As he himself 
could pronounce very well," says Sir John, " so it 
was a great penance to him to hear others pro- 
nounce ill that which himself had written excel- 
lent well. Insomuch as they tell of him, how, 
coming one day by a potter's shop, that had many 
earthen vessels ready made, to sell on his stall, the 
potter fortuned at that time to sing some stave 
or other out of Orlando Furioso, I think where 
Rinaldo requesteth his horse to tarry for him, in 
the first book, the thirty-second stanza : 

' Ferma, Baiardo, mio, deh, ferma il piede 
Che 1' esser senza de troppo mi nuoce.' 

Or some such grave matter, fit for a potter. But 
he plotted the verses out so ill-favouredly, (as 
might well beseem his dirty occupation,) that 


Ariosto being, or at least making semblance to be, 
in a great rage withal, with a little walking-stick 
he had in his hand, brake divers pots. The poor 
potter, put quite beside his song, and almost be- 
side himself, to see his market half marred before 
it was a quarter done, in a pitiful sour manner, be- 
tween railing and whining, asked what he meant, 
to wrong a poor man that had never done him 
injury in all his life. ' Yes, varlet,' quoth Ariosto, 
* I am yet scarce even with thee for the wrong 
thou hast done me, here before my face ; for I 
have broken but half a dozen base pots of thine, 
that are not worth so many halfpence, but thou 
hast broken and mangled a fine stanza of mine, 
worth a mark of gold.' " There is a great simi- 
larity between this story and an anecdote related 
of Dante, who, it is said, punished a blacksmith 
and muleteer for a like offence. The temper and 
fastidiousness of these great men respecting their 
verses, render it sufficiently probable that the* tra- 
ditions are in both cases correct. 

Six editions of the " Orlando" had been now 
given to the world, the first, namely, in 1515, the 
second in the following year, and the third in 1521, 
all which were printed at Ferrara. In 1526 a 
fourth appeared at Milan ; and in the following year 


it was printed at Venice, where another edition 
was also published in 1530. None of these edi- 
tions extend beyond forty cantos, and they are far 
from being so correct as the later ones : but their 
number will serve to show how generally popular 
the work had become, even in the lifetime of 
the author.* 

By his services in Garfagnana, Ariosto had ac- 
quired an additional claim to the consideration of 
Alphonso. In his character as a useful servant of 
the state, he stood on an equal footing with the 
most esteemed members of the court : his talents 
had been tried in the most difficult affairs, and had 
never failed to produce some good effect, wherever 
they had a fair field for exertion. He had, indeed, 
gained the hearty affections of his master, and it 
was the serious desire of the Prince to employ 
him in some manner which might still attach him 
to his person without greatly invading his love of 
leisure or retirement. The passion of the Duke for 
theatrical amusements, and Ariosto's known taste 
for dramatic composition, furnished the former with 
a ready means for the exercise of his regard. In- 
stead, therefore, of again sending him from his 
beloved retreat, or imposing upon him an office of 

* Mazzuchelli. 



labour and difficulty, he appointed him to superin- 
tend the arrangements which were making for the 
performance of the regular drama at his court. No 
employment could have better suited the poet's 
inclination. He immediately drew out a plan 
for the theatre, which was closely followed; and 
so superb and convenient was the structure, 
when finished, that it was the admiration of all 

But the great advantage Alphonso reaped from 
his choice of Ariosto for this office, was his ability 
to supply the stage with more perfect dramas than 
had been hitherto written by any modern author. 
Leo X. and his courtiers were the first to bring 
scenic amusements of a higher order into fashion. 
They restored the language of the theatre to its 
old classical style, and bestowed an attention upon 
this object, which, however favourable to its im- 
provement, scarcely agreed, as has been rightly 
observed, with their station or functions.* But 
it was to Ariosto that the practice of writing come- 
dies in verse owed its commencement. The " Cas- 
saria and I Suppositi," already mentioned, were 
originally written in prose, and remained unaltered 
till Alphonso's fondness for the drama induced 

* Tiraboschi. 


the author to remodel and turn them into verse. 
These, and four others, which he wrote on a simi- 
lar plan, were performed in the magnificent the- 
atre pertaining to the court ; and such was the 
estimation in which they were held, that Fran- 
cesco, the son of the Duke, publicly pronounced 
one of the prologues, while the characters them- 
selves were represented by the first personages of 

Four years were spent in these gay and easy 
occupations ; and, so much were his comedies ad- 
mired, that they tended to increase even the high 
reputation he had acquired by the Orlando Fu- 
rioso. It appears, however, that they had not 
yet made any impression on the Venetians, for 
Fabbroni, having seen one of them at Ferrara, con- 
ceived the design of bringing it out at the the- 
atre of Venice, but found himself wholly disappoint- 
ed in the result. The name of Ariosto gathered 
together a numerous audience, and its expectation 
was raised to the utmost, from the idea that all the 
heroes and magical scenes of the Orlando would 
be represented to the life : the disappointment 
of the spectators, therefore, was extreme, when 
they found that characters, of which they had 
never before heard, were to occupy their atten- 


tion ; and so strong was the expression of dissa- 
tisfaction, that the performers were obliged to with- 
draw before the play was half concluded. 

But neither the desire of contributing to Al- 
phonso's amusement, nor his own relish for drama- 
tic composition, could tempt Ariosto to neglect the 
great design on which he rested his hope of im- 
mortal fame. Plays and satires, and even epigrams, 
frequently employed his muse ; but they were only 
written to relax his mind after a long and serious 
attention to the Orlando, as Statius, it was ob- 
served, composed his " Sylvia," to relieve him from 
the severer labour attending the composition of 
his "Thebaid." In the year 1532, the result of 
his protracted exertions appeared in a new edi- 
tion of his work, much altered by his careful 
and repeated corrections, and enlarged by the ad- 
dition of six new cantos. The most precious fruit 
of his life and genius was thus again brought 
before the world; and the anxiety with which 
he watched the impression which this improved 
edition would make upon the public, was scarce- 
ly less than that which he felt on the first ap- 
pearance of the poem seventeen years before. 
It was with feelings, therefore, of the deepest 
distress, that he found that the printing of the 


work was so bad and incorrect, as to deprive it 
almost entirely of the advantages of his cautious 
revision. In writing to a friend on the subject, he 
emphatically described his vexation, by saying, that 
" he had been assassinated by his printer." 

It is probable that this circumstance, combined 
with the fatigue attending his close application 
while preparing the edition for the press, had a 
serious effect on his health, which now began to 
exhibit signs of rapid decline. The only complaint 
from which he appears to have hitherto suffered, 
was a slight asthmatic affection, and a weakness 
of digestion, which rarely diverted him from his 
usual occupations. But in the spring of 1533, he 
was seriously attacked with indigestion, and the 
method which his physicians employed to remove 
it, acting too violently upon his constitution, the 
malady daily assumed a more alarming appearance. 
It is a curious circumstance, that the origin of his 
complaint was attributable to his hasty manner of 
eating, to which he was so prone, that he seldom 
allowed himself time to masticate his food. The 
temperance for which he was remarkable, prevent- 
ed its being believed that this peculiarity could 
be owing to any grossness of appetite, and his 
friends uniformly ascribed it to the utter absence 


of mind with which he partook of his meals. To 
illustrate this point, his son Virginio has left an 
anecdote on record, which places it beyond doubt 
that such was the case, unless we choose to accuse 
the poet of inhospitality. A foreigner having been 
introduced to him one day, was invited, during 
their conversation, to partake of some refreshment. 
A slight repast accordingly being brought in, the 
stranger modestly waited for some sign from Ari- 
osto to begin ; but the latter, taking no notice of 
his companion, placed himself at the table, and 
never ceased from eating till he had finished what- 
ever was on the board. On another occasion, his 
friends at court wishing to prove how insensible 
he was to the mere flavour of his food, set 
before him a dish of some very coarse and dis- 
agreeable meat, instead of a delicate bird, which 
he had been led to expect: unluckily, however, 
for the success of their experiment, a stranger, 
who happened to sit next him, tasted the dish, 
and, expressing his surprise, the trick was dis- 

But indifference to the temptations of the table 
proved, in his case, as fatal as their undue indul- 
gence in others. The constant application of me- 
dicine to remove the oppression under which he 


laboured brought on a consumption, and on the 
night of the 6th of June 1533, he breathed his 
last, his death, it is worthy of mention, having been 
preceded only a few hours by the total destruction 
of Alphonso's splendid theatre by fire. 

Ferrara, all Italy, and even Europe, lamented 
Ariosto as the first poet of the age, and as worthy of 
being enrolled in the same chart of fame with the 
greatest ;hat had ever lived. His funeral was ren- 
dered remarkable by the attendance of a large body 
of monks, who to honour his memory, followed him, 
contrary to the rules of their order, to the grave. 
His son Virginio shortly after built a small chapel in 
his garden, and formed a mausoleum to which he 
intended to remove his remains, but the same monks 
prohibited it, and the body was left in the humble 
tomb in which it was originally deposited, till 
the new church of S. Benedetto was built, when 
Agostino Mosti, a gentleman of Ferrara, raised 
above it a monument more worthy of the poet. In 
1612 his great-grandson, Lodovico, erected a still 
nobler one, and removed the ashes of his ancestor 
from the tomb of Agostino, as the latter had done 
from the one in which they were originally depo- 
sited. This monument of Lodovico, which still 


exists, is built of the most costly marble, and 
adorned with two statues representing Glory and 
Poetry, together with an effigy of the poet in 
alabaster. The inscription is as follows : 

D. O. M. 

Ter Illi Maximo, Atque Ore Omnium Celeber- 
Rimo Vati, a Carolo V. Caesare Coronato, No- 
Bilitate Generis Atque Animi Claro, In Rebus 
Publicis Administrandis, In Regendis Populis, 
In Gravissimis Ad Summos Pontifices Legationi- 
Bus Prudentia, Consilio, Eloquentia Praestan- 
Tissimo, Ludovicus Areostus Pronepos, Ne Quid 
Domesticae Pietati Ad Tanti Viri Gloriam Cu- 
Mulandum Defuisse Videri Possit, Magno Pa- 
Truo, Cujus Ossa Hie Vere Condita Sunt P. C. 

Anno Salutis MDCXII. Vixit An. LIX. Obiit 
Ann. Sal. MDXXXIII. VIII. Idus Junii. 

Notus Et Hesperiis Jacet Hie Areostus, Et Indis, 
Cui Musa Sternum JS'omen Etrusca Dedit ; 

Seu Satyram In Vitia Exacuit, Sen Comica Lusit, 
Seu Cecinit Grandi Bella, Ducesque Tuba, 

Ter Summus Vates, Cui Docti In Vertice Pindi, 
Tergemina Licuit Cingere Fronde Comas. 

The 4 a Caesare Coronato' has given rise to much 
controversy, but it has been fully proved that Ari- 


osto was never formally crowned. He wrote a 
jesting epitaph in Latin for himself, which runs 
thus : 

Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa 

Sub hoc marmore, seu sub hac humo, seu 

Sub quidquid voluit benignus haeres, 

Sive haerede benignior comes, sive 

Opportunius incidens viator, 

Nam scire baud potuit futura, sed nee 

Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver 

Ut urnam cuperet parare vivens, 

Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit, 

Quae inscribi voluit suo sepulchre, 

Olim si quod haberet is sepulchrum, 

Ne cum spiritus exili peracto 

Praescripti spatio misellus artus, 

Quos aegre ante reliquerat, reposcet, 

Hac et hac cinerem hunc et hunc revellens, 

Dum norit proprium, diu vagetur. 

Pope adopted this epitaph, and called it an 
inscription " For one who would not be buried in 
Westminster Abbey," meaning himself: 

Under this marble, or under this sill, 
Or under this turf, or e'en what they will ; 
Whatever an heir, or a friend in his stead, 
Or any good creature shall lay o'er my head, 


Lies one who ne'er car'd, and still cares not a pin, 
What they said or may say of the mortal within, 
But who living and dying, serene still and free, 
Trusts in God that as well as he was he shall be. 

It is not, however, the easiest task, to which the 
imagination can be put, to make the living man 
speak as if he were already dead ; and Dr. John- 
son has with an amusing acuteness observed on 
Pope's imitation, that " when a man is once buried, 
the question under what he is buried is easily 
decided ; he forgot that though he wrote the 
epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not 
be said over him till his grave was made." 

Ariosto had no need to write his own epitaph ; 
besides that engraved on his monument, a great 
number were written by his various admirers, and 
several others by unknown persons, on different sides 
of the tomb. Nor has the place of his rest wanted 
other marks of respect. More than one royal tra- 
veller has made a pilgrimage to his grave ; and 
when the excellent Joseph II. had to pass through 
Ferrara, and could scarcely spare time for refresh- 
ment, he devoted the short hour he spent in 
the town to show his respect for the memory of 
Ariosto. His visit to the tomb was celebrated by 


several poets of the day, one or two of whose son- 
nets are preserved and cited by Barotti.* 

The person of Ariosto is described by his bio- 
graphers with little variation in their language. 
His figure was large and well-formed, except about 
the shoulders, which were disproportioned to the 
rest of his person, and were rendered still more 
so in appearance by his habit of stooping as he 
walked. His step was slow and measured, and 
the expression of his countenance indicative of 
habitual contemplation. His thin cheeks and dark 
complexion added still farther to the gravity of his 
looks, while his bald and lofty forehead, the rest 
of his head being covered with dark curling locks, 
his black and penetrating eyes, and thick bushy 
beard, gave him the appearance of a man different 
from the common race of mortals. Nor was he 
wanting in the milder graces of person. His lips 
were beautifully formed, and when he smiled ex- 
pressed the soft and amiable sentiments which so 
often grace his descriptions; his voice was clear 
and harmonious, and all his gestures indicative of 
a lofty but affectionate disposition. 

Of his general character and sentiments we may 
form, says one of his biographers, an accurate 

* Let. Fer. 


opinion from his poems, and especially from his 
satires, in which the opinions he utters seem to 
have been dictated by the purest morality, " and 
I will courageously assert," says the same writer, 
a man of learning and gravity, " that if he had 
lived in our days he would have afforded an 
example worthy of imitation, and made a con- 
spicuous figure among the men whom we are 
accustomed to regard as most moral in their 
habits."* And certainly if the love and exercise 
of justice, forbearance under injuries, temperance 
in living, humanity and kindness towards inferiors, 
and a pure and unshaken attachment to inde- 
pendence, can make a man worthy of this praise, 
Ariosto richly deserved it ; but we must not forget 
to lament his errors while we admire his virtues, 
nor buckle on charity as an armour that we may 
fight with security against truth. The amours of 
Ariosto are a difficult theme for both his eulogists 
and his biographers. He has alluded in his poems 
to several ladies with whose charms he was cap- 
tivated, but, with the exception of Alessandra and 
Genevre, the names under which they are men- 
tioned are fictitious. His caution in this respect 
is thought to have been hinted at in the device 

* Barotti. 


placed on his favourite inkstand, and which con- 
sisted of a little Cupid having his fore-finger on 
his lip in token of secrecy. The ladies, however, 
above mentioned seem 'to have been excepted 
from the usual custom of the poet, and it is be- 
lieved, as before observed, that Alessandra was his 
wife. If this were the case, the only reason that 
can be alleged for his keeping his marriage a 
secret is his having embraced the ecclesiastical 
profession, which he is said to have done at a 
former period of his life, and to have obtained 
benefices which he must have resigned imme- 
diately, had his marriage been made known to the 
world. The t evidence in proof of Alessandra's 
being his wife is, in fact, little short of unan- 

In two letters, written to Messer Giovan Fran- 
cesco Strozzi, we find her mentioned as if she was 
not only his habitual companion, but recognised as 
such by his intimate friends of both sexes. In the 
first of these epistles, dated Ferrara, January 21, 
1532, he tells Messer Strozzi that Madonna Ales- 
sandra desired to be remembered to him and his 
sister, and that she had sent the latter two pieces 
of silk for which she paid a scudo of gold, obtain- 
ing them with difficulty at that price, as the Jew 


from whom she purchased them required four lire. 
In the second, dated Ferrara, June 21, 1532, he 
says, that he had just returned to Madonna Ales- 
sandra as the messenger arrived with Messer 
Strozzi's letter, and after mentioning some late 
occurrences and giving his opinion upon them, he 
adds, that Madonna Alessandra also thought in 
the same manner. 

In addition to the conjectures which these let- 
ters, and the opinion of more than one early author 
on the subject, lead us to form, we find from the 
preface to Barotti, whose work was published after 
his death, that shortly before his decease his friend 
Frizzi convinced him that Ariosto was really mar- 
ried to Alessandra, bringing certain documents 
which put the fact beyond a doubt, and that had 
he recovered sufficiently to revise his work, he 
would have made the subject clearer to the public 
than had hitherto been done. According to the re- 
cords above alluded to, Alessandra was the widow 
of Tito di Leonardo Strozzi, a nobleman of Ferrara, 
and it is conjectured that she was the same lady 
with whom the poet became enamoured at Niccolo 
Vespuccio's.* It is believed, however, that the 
marriage did not take place till the latter part of 

* Tiraboschi. 


Ariosto's life, and that neither Virginio nor Giam- 
battista, who were legitimatised in 1530 and 1538, 
sprung from the union, but that the former was the 
son of a person known by the name of Orsolina, 
and the latter of some one whose name has hitherto 
escaped the most diligent research. Whoever were 
the mothers of Ariosto's sons, he paid the most 
diligent attention to their education. The younger 
entered the Ferrarese army and died a captain ; but 
Virginio was for some time brought up under 'his 
father's instruction, and subsequently sent to Pa- 
dua, in 1531, to complete his education. On this 
occasion Ariosto wrote to Pietro Bembo, informing 
the Cardinal that he had directed his son to call 
on his reverence the moment he arrived at the 
University, and begging him at the same time to 
afford him his favour when necessary, and to watch 
over him, and admonish him not to waste his time. 
It was on the same occasion also that he dedicated 
to him the well-known Satire, in which he alludes 
to the circumstances of his own youth, and ex- 
presses so strongly the noble feelings which marked 
his character. The sentiments of this production 
are elevated and powerfully expressed. Near the 
commencement he says : 


Dottrina abbia, e bonta, ma principale 
Sia la bonta, che non vi essendo questa 

Ne molto quella a la mia stima vale. 
So ben, che la dottrina fia piu presta, 
A lasciarsi trovar, che la bontade. 

Knowledge and Virtue these be all his aim, 
But first and chief let Virtue homage claim ; 
Without her, little should I care to find 
Knowledge, far easier gain'd, enrich his mind. 

He next entreats the Cardinal to find a tutor 
for his son who was free from the common 
vices of the age, and who could make him read, 
in the proper language of Homer, what Ulysses 
suffered at Troy and in his wanderings; and to 
understand what Apollonius, Euripides, and the 
other Grecian poets wrote ; observing that he had 
himself taught him to read Virgil, Terence, Ovid, 
Horace, and Plautus, but was now too idle or too 
weak to open the temple of Apollo in Delos, as he 
had done the sanctuary of the Muses on the Roman 
Palatine. With great feeling he then describes the 
difficulties he had to encounter when a young man 
in acquiring the advantages he wished to bestow 
on his son, concluding with another request that 
his friend would not fail to assist him in his pa- 
rental cares. But we must now turn from the con- 


sideration of his personal to that of his literary 

Few works have been submitted to severer cri- 
ticism than the " Orlando Furioso," but if the popu- 
larity of a poem be a proper test of its merits, this 
celebrated production has an undoubted right to be 
ranked among the noblest efforts of human genius. 
In a letter of Bernardo Tasso to Varchi, we find 
him saying that in his time there was not " an ar- 
tisan, nor a boy, nor girl, nor old man, who had 
not read it over and over again ; that its stanzas 
formed the comfort of the lonely traveller, who 
relieved the toil of his cold and weary journey by 
singing them as he went, and that persons might 
be heard repeating them in every street and field." 
At a period when no artificial methods were in 
vogue for attracting attention to literary works, 
such a wide and rapidly diffused popularity could 
be only owing to the real delight inspired by its 
gay and varied creations. The inquiry, conse- 
quently, as to its merits when compared with the 
more classical productions of the Muse, is reduced 
to the question, how far the excellence of works 
of imagination depends on their conformity to cer- 
tain laws of taste, but which conformity is only 
to be perceived by the most tutored and refined in- 


tellects. Neither Homer nor Virgil was ever read 
by so many thousands as Ariosto, and never, it is 
probable, inspired their admirers with a delight so 
vivid as that felt by the traveller as he sung the 
story of Orlando. Yet few persons qualified to 
compare these works, would place the Orlando 
Furioso above the Iliad, or JEneid, or regard it 
as manifesting so high a power of intellect ; and 
this because, though it possess every grace and 
charm with which imagination and verse can invest 
a composition, it fails in that unity of design which 
renders an epic poem, according to a justly esteemed 
author, " the noblest of all harmonious creations 
the greatest possible extension given to those laws 
of symmetry, which, directing all parts to one ob- 
ject, produce in each the pleasure and perfection 
of the whole."* Ariosto, indeed, was wanting in 
that power of harmonious combination which, next 
to the creative faculty of imagination, is the highest 
quality of mind ; and which may be regarded as 
solely furnishing the link between the inspirations 
of genius and the operations of art, art being 
neither more nor less than the power of expressing 
under one point of view the unlimited and multi- 
form creations of the imagination. That Ariosto 

* Sismondi. 


was deficient in this respect is sufficiently evi- 
denced by the slight connexion between the diffe- 
rent parts of his work, which everywhere presents 
proofs that it was the offspring of a mind luxurious 
in invention, but weak in commanding the objects 
it called forth. 

Next to its deficiency in unity may be men- 
tioned its want of a moral, in that sense at least 
in which the term is usually applied to epic, or 
dramatic poetry. It seems, indeed, that morality 
is the true foundation of unity, and that the latter 
never exists in poetry or painting but when the 
writer or artist is powerfully impressed with some 
ruling sentiment, round which his thoughts and the 
creations of his imagination may cluster, and which 
may be as an imperishable altar of gold, on which 
love and romance may safely burn their incense, 
rendered more precious and odorous by the very 
sacredness of the altar. Whenever the imagina- 
tion of an author is stronger than his moral feeling 
of the subject, or fable, on which he is employed, 
we may see a gay creation of fairy bowers, of 
castles and palaces peopled with ladies beautiful 
as light ; we may be soothed, and charmed, and 
wrapt in pleasant reveries, as we are by music, 
but we shall feel that they are only reveries that 


the mind must be lulled into repose before we 
attempt to enjoy them ; that they are best un- 
derstood in sylvan solitudes and by the side of 
brooks, where the rustling of leaves and the murmur 
of waters aid the fancy ; and that should any acci- 
dent break the thread of our musings, the whole 
creation would vanish. But let us read the Iliad, 
or a tragedy like Lear or Macbeth, or look for some 
time at a painting on which the moral sentiment of 
the artist is as strongly impressed as his imagination ; 
and instead of having to humour the fancy that the 
charm may be kept alive, we shall with difficulty 
shake off the impression when it is necessary to 
return to the real business of life. But it is only 
the few, the Heaven-gifted few, on whom Truth, 
the ministering spirit of beauty, whether moral or 
material, bestows her talisman, touched by which 
the brilliant forms of fancy are filled with life, and 
become fitly and harmoniously ranged in the same 
beautiful creation. The scenes described, the forms 
and elements of inanimate nature, the beings that 
move and act are then all evidently subjected to the 
same master feeling that feeling, namely, of moral 
beauty which in a few rare instances seems to glow 
the stronger the more active the imagination, and 
which holds it in continual subjection, because 
' E 5 


genius works emblematically of divine power, and 
in the real universe nothing is beautiful without 
truth and order. 

But the Orlando Furioso is not an epic, and is 
therefore not to be judged by the laws to which 
that species of poem is amenable. Nor is it to be 
supposed that because a poem is, or is not written 
in conformity with a certain plan, it merits simply 
on that account to be placed in a higher or lower 
class of imaginative works. Unity of plan can 
give birth to no feeling of admiration when it is 
merely studied and mechanical when it is not, in 
fact, as much the effect of inspiration as the images 
or sentiments of the work. Though Ariosto, there- 
fore, when compared with the three or four 
mightiest spirits of our race, maybe found wanting, 
we are bound to honour him as next to them in rank, 
and infinitely above the most successful imitator 
of Homer or Virgil that ever lived. In another 
light also the Orlando Furioso is worthy of the 
most philosophic attention, as well as of the popular 
admiration it enjoys. It stands in the same rela- 
tion to the romantic times of chivalry as the old 
epics do to those of the heroic classical ages ; and 
in no other work can we see the spirit and the 
sentiments which at one time gave so rich a co- 


louring to European manners, developed with such 
clearness or magnificence. M. Ginguene observes, 
in concluding his critique on Ariosto, " that what- 
ever may be thought of the romantic epic, it is 
a species of poetry separate from all others, and 
has its chefs d'ceuvre and its models as well as the 
ancient and legitimate epic. It belongs," continues 
he, " altogether to modern Italy, and may boast of 
having produced one of those great poems which 
make an epoch in the history of the human mind ; 
which eternally criticised, and eternally praised, 
runs no risk of falling into that gulf of forgetfulness 
which swallows up so many others, but will for 
ever remain an object of interest and discussion 
among men, and will afford nourishment to the 
imagination, aid to the arts, and refreshment to 
the minds of many generations. This is certain 
this is sufficient to authorise our admiration and 
even enthusiasm, and should induce foreigners to 
read Ariosto not superficially, but with a careful 
and even profound attention." M. Ginguene then 
proceeds to quote the opinion of the learned Gra- 
vina, who attributes the principal faults of Ariosto 
to his imitation of Boiardo, and not to any defect 
in his own taste or genius. The errors which 
chiefly attracted the notice of that distinguished 


scholar are the interruptions which interfere with 
the thread of the narrative, and principally consist 
of digressions made for the sake of complimenting 
the nobles of the Court, or to introduce the story 
again which had been broken off by these untimely 
addresses. But the French critic thus apologises 
for the supposed defect, and ingeniously accounts 
for its origin : " To judge rightly," says he, " of 
Ariosto, the reader must figure to himself the 
Court of Ferrara, one of the most frequented and 
most polished that could be found in Italy during 
the sixteenth century. He must consider it as 
forming every evening a brilliant circle, of which 
Alphonso d'Este and the Cardinal Ippolito were 
the centre; he must forget the subsequent un- 
kindness of the Prince of the Church, and only 
regard the splendour which surrounds him, his 
supposed love of letters, and attachment to the 
poet. In this noble and festive assembly he must 
imagine the bard to be riveting the attention of 
all eyes and ears during an hour or more for forty- 
six evenings. The first day, he proposes his subject ; 
he addresses himself to the Cardinal, his patron ; 
he promises to celebrate the origin of his illustrious 
race ; he commences the recital ; but, as soon as 
he thinks the attention of his audience may be 



wearied, he stops, saying, that what remains to be 
told, is reserved for another canto. The next day, 
the party again assemble, and wait with impa- 
tience the appearance of the poet : he enters, and, 
after some short reflections on the capriciousness 
of love, resumes the thread of his story. The 
third day, he changes his tone and method, and 
consecrates this period of his song to predicting 
the glory of the house of Este. Having com- 
pleted his complimentary stanzas, he ceases, and, 
as usual, promises to renew the recital in an- 
other canto, sometimes adding, * If it be agreeable 
to you to hear this story ;' or, * you will hear the 
rest in another canto, if you come again to hear 
me.' He found these forms established by the 
custom of the oldest romantic poets; he considered 
them natural and convenient for his purpose, and 
he borrowed them. Like these, his predecessors, 
he also avoids losing sight of his audience, even in 
the course of the recital : he addresses himself to 
the Princes who might be presiding at the meeting, 
and to the ladies who graced it by their presence, 
not unfrequently apologising when he told some 
incident which seemed incredible, with such words 
as these ; ' This is very wonderful ; you believe 
it not ! but I do not say it of myself, but, Turpin 


having put it in his history, I put it in mine.' 
Place yourself in this point of view," concludes 
M. Ginguene ; " seat yourself in the midst of that 
attentive assembly ; attend join in its admiration 
of that fertile genius that inimitable story-teller 
that adroit courtier that sublime poet stop 
when he stops suffer yourself to wander, to be 
elevated, to be inflamed as he does himself lay 
aside the too severe taste, which might diminish 
your pleasure : hear Ariosto, above all, in his own 
language ; study his niceties ; learn to perceive 
their grace, their force and harmony, and you will 
then know what to think of the atrabilious critics 
who have dared to treat unjustly so true and great 
a genius." 

Whatever, in a word, be the objections, which, 
in the spirit of theoretical criticism, may be made 
to the " Orlando," no poem exists more richly 
deserving the popularity it has enjoyed through 
successive generations. Imagination never gave 
birth to a greater, or more splendid variety of 
scenes, incidents, and characters, and never did 
poet hold the minds of his readers more completely 
captive to the charm of his song. At one time, we 
seem carried by some magic car over wide-stretch- 
ing countries, varied with every wonder and glory 


of Nature ; at others, led by a hermit, or the 
singing of a solitary bird, through green and quiet 
dells ; then again transported through the air, and, 
making our passage amid gorgeous clouds, we find 
ourselves on tented battle-fields, or surrounded by 
throngs of dames or barons, in the hall of some 
lordly castle. Nor does the charm of the poem 
consist only in this wild variety and brilliancy of 
the objects with which it regales the fancy. Both 
the sentiments and incidents are often exquisitely 
tender and impassioned : gaiety and splendour give 
way to pathos, and the music of the verse be- 
comes as deep and plaintive as it was before light 
and flowing. 

Ariosto is said to be remarkably unsuccessful in 
the speeches which he puts into the mouths of his 
principal characters, and to fail altogether of dra- 
matic power. This is not a little singular, as he 
was devoted, from the very commencement of his 
literary career, to dramatic composition ; but, de- 
veloping his plot by description and narrative, the 
addition of dialogue became unnecessary, and was 
consequently, whenever introduced, cold and un- 
impressive. The remark, perhaps, may be found 
to hold good in other instances as well as in that 
of our poet, it being rarely the case that an author 


who possesses the superior faculty of represent- 
ing the workings or effects of passion as nature 
represents them, that is, by a few mysteriously 
significant and comprehensive signs, will employ 
narrative for that purpose. But, if Ariosto was 
not successful in his speeches, or in that power 
which, almost without a metaphor, makes the 
thoughts of the poet breathe and his words burn, 
he was equal, perhaps superior, to any writer that 
ever lived, in giving a dramatic interest to his 
narrative. In most cases, romantic poetry appeals 
almost solely to the fancy; but Ariosto, by the 
exquisite management of his scenes and incidents, 
and even by the colouring of his landscapes, takes 
hold of our feelings as well as our curiosity, and 
makes us forget that he is but narrating, from the 
deep and impressive pathos of the narrative. 

In the celebrated controversy which was origi- 
nated shortly after the publication of the " Gerusa- 
lemme Liberata," by the two famous Italian critics, 
Pellegrino and Salviati, the respective merits of 
Ariosto and Tasso were disputed with a warmth and 
display of learning rarely witnessed even in literary 
controversies. The conclusion to which most per- 
sons probably would come, after reading either the 
poems or the criticisms is, that while the Geru- 


salemme, by the loftiness of its style and the re- 
gularity of its plan, may claim superiority as an 
epic, the Orlando Furioso is more fitted to cap- 
tivate the fancy by the almost infinite variety of 
its incidents and the exquisite beauty of its 
imagery. It would be difficult indeed to discover 
any reason for the endeavours which have been so 
often made to depreciate the merit of one of these 
noble poems to enhance that of the other. Few 
readers who can enter at all into their spirit would 
wish that Ariosto had confined his brilliant fancy, 
rejoicing in its fertility, like a child in its feeling of 
health and activity, by rules ; or that Tasso, whose 
spirit was naturally calm, majestic, and meditative, 
had encouraged it to wanton in unbounded mirth 
and freedom. 

Of the other works of our distinguished author, 
namely, his Plays and Satires, it will be sufficient 
to observe, that the former claim the honour of 
being the first regular comedies produced in Italy, 
and that, being written in imitation of the old 
comedies, they exhibit, in many of their scenes, 
the humour of Plautus and the delicacy of Terence. 
His Satires abound in excellent sentiments, and 
contain many humorous sketches, but they fail in 
strength and poignancy ; and, both from their style 


and contents, might be more properly termed epis- 
tles. The miscellaneous pieces from his hand, 
both Latin and Italian, are characterised by the 
imagination and elegance of language which ap- 
pear in the Orlando; and several of his epigrams 
are remarkable for point and beauty of expression. 
To these productions we may add a dialogue en- 
titled L'Erbolato, several letters, and the five new 
cantos which he wrote for the Orlando, but which 
are generally considered very inferior to the rest, 
and were never assigned their proper place in the 
poem. He also left behind him several unfinished 
ajjl unpublished works; but great as is the re- 
putation enjoyed by the Orlando Furioso, the other 
productions of its author have never acquired 
much public attention. 

ILfft of 


PIETRO BEMBO was born at Venice on the 
20th of May 1470. His father, Bernardo Bembo, 
a patrician, enjoyed many important posts in the 
Government, and was noted for his learning, and 
his mother, Elena Marcella, was of an ancient and 
noble family. At the age of eight he was carried 
to Florence, whither his father was sent as am- 
bassador, and thus from his earliest years became 
imbued with a love of the pure Tuscan dialect. His 
stay, however, at Florence was short, as his father 
was recalled about two years afterwards, and he 
was then placed under the instruction of Alessan- 
dro Urticio, with whom he prosecuted his study of 


the classics. His time was thus occupied till he 
reached his eighteenth year, when, on Bernardo's 
being sent as ambassador to Rome, he was left to 
settle several affairs at Venice, that he might con- 
tract those habits of business which it was thought 
would be of important service to him in future 
years. The principal object for which his atten- 
tion was required on his father's departure was 
a law-suit, but having come in contact with his 
opponent on the Rialto, a dispute arose about some 
document which Pietro had to present to the 
judges, and proceeding from words to blows, his 
furious antagonist drove a knife through his hand, 
and thus fulfilled a dream which, it is said, had 
terrified Marcella the previous night with appre- 
hensions of the evil which actually occurred.* 

On his return from Rome, Bernardo carried 
his son with him to Podesta, where he remained 
about two years. He continued his studies, but 
not, it would seem, to any great extent, as it was 
only by the persuasion of Alessandro Urticio that 
he was induced to turn his attention to Greek lite- 
rature, which that worthy preceptor assured him 
was an indispensable acquirement to persons who 
intended to distinguish themselves by their learning 

* Beccatelli. Apostolo Zeno. 

BEMBO. 95 

or eloquence. Pietro, however, who was never want- 
ing in ambition, attended to Alessandro's representa- 
tions, and eagerly besought his father to allow him 
the necessary means for pursuing this new branch 
of education. But to study it in the ordinary 
manner, or with such opportunities as his own 
city afforded, would not satisfy him, and he obtain- 
ed Bernardo's permission to proceed to Messina, in 
Sicily, where the famous Costantino Lascari was 
teaching Greek with great success. Accordingly, 
on the 30th of March, 1492, and in the twen- 
ty-second year of his age, he set out from Venice 
in the company of his friend Angelo Gabrielli, and 
proceeding by land to Naples, embarked there for 
Messina, which they reached, after a dangerous 
voyage, on the 4th of May. 

The ardour with which he laboured during the 
two years and a half he remained in Sicily, was 
equal to the resolution with which he commenced 
his course, and it was his common custom to sacri- 
fice his nights as well as days to study.* His im- 
provement was in proportion to his application, and 
he not only read the language with fluency, but 
composed in it, at the same time preserving his 
command over Latin by regular exercises, among 

* Casa. 


which particular mention is made of a little work 
on Mount Etna, which he dedicated to the com- 
panion of his studies. 

On his return to Italy, his extensive knowledge, 
and the facility and elegance with which he com- 
posed in the two languages, acquired him the 
acquaintance of the most learned men of his coun- 
try, and his fame spread rapidly over every part 
of Italy. 

It is not precisely known in what manner he 
passed his time immediately after his return home, 
but it is supposed that he spent a part of the in- 
terim between his return and his going to Ferrara, 
four years afterwards, at Padua, then celebrated 
for its school of philosophy.* However this may 
be, it was the earnest wish of Bernardo that his 
son should devote himself to the service of his 
country, in which his eminent talents would have 
objects worthy of their exertion. Pietro had little 
inclination to mix in the confusion of political 
contests ; his mind was now too deeply imbued with 
the love of poetry and philosophy to take pleasure 
in any thing else, and the reputation he had al- 
ready acquired by letters, tended still more to 
confine his ambition to the acquirement of honour 

* Beccatelli. 

BEMBO. 97 

as a man of learning : but his father's request had 
great weight with him in forming a decision on the 
subject, and in this state of uneasiness and doubt 
he went one day to church, praying that God 
would direct him to that way of life which might 
be most useful. It happened that the Gospel of 
the day was the 21st chapter of St. John, in which 
the words occur that our Lord addressed to his 
zealous apostle Peter, " Follow me." Bembo took 
the sentence as applicable to his present condition, 
and thenceforth determined to apply himself to 
sacred studies.* 

Some time after this occurrence, his father was 
sent to Ferrara, and as the Princes of that country 
were as celebrated as any in Europe for their ad- 
miration of learning, he was followed by Pietro, 
who had the satisfaction of enjoying the favour of 
the Duke Alfonso and his consort Lucretia Borgia, 
and the distinguished men of their court, among 
whom were Hercules Strozzi, Jacomo Sadoleto, 
and Antonio Tebaldeo. In the society of these 
scholars he continued his studies with undiminish- 
ed industry, and availed himself of the lectures of 
Niccolo Leoniceno, who then taught philosophy at 
Ferrara. He also completed a work he had com- 

* Casa Apostolus Zenus apud Casam. 


menced some time before, and to which he gave 
the title of " Gli Asolani," from the name of a villa 
where he resided when he began the poem. It 
consisted of dialogues on love, and was written in 
such elegant Latin verse, that many persons be- 
lieved it to be the fragment of some ancient com- 

In the year 1500, he returned to his native 
city, where he took up his settled residence, occa- 
sionally spending a short time with his friends at 
Ferrara, and especially with Strozzi, in whose villa, 
known by the name of Ostellato, or Villa Strozziana, 
he passed many agreeable months of study and 
retirement. Much of his time at Venice was oc- 
cupied with the employment furnished him by his 
office of secretary in the Aldine academy, to which 
he had the honour of being elected soon after his 
return from Ferrara, and he thus lived in a manner 
sufficiently satisfactory to a man of literary tastes 
and habits. But unhappily the fortune of his father 
was too limited to support him and his brothers 
in unprofitable pursuits, and Pietro, therefore, re- 
solved to seek promotion in some other State, 
where learning was a more valuable commodity 
than among the merchants of Venice. 

In conformity with this determination, he pro- 

BEMBO. 99 

ceeded to Rome, where he stayed about three 
months, and then went to Urbino, where he met 
with a gracious reception from the Duke Guido- 
baldo, and formed a strict intimacy with Giovanni 
de' Medici, afterwards Leo X., and his brother 
Giuliano, who, with many other distinguished Flo- 
rentines, were then living in exile. His father, 
however, made another effort to recall his attention 
to politics, but in vain ; and he is reported to have 
persevered in remaining from home, because an 
astrologer had told him that he would be more 
favoured and advanced by strangers than by his 
own countrymen. In 1512, in company with Giu- 
liano de' Medici he again went to Rome, and 
shortly after his arrival acquired the esteem of 
Julius the Second, by deciphering a book sent to 
the Pontiff from Dacia, and which he had as yet 
found no one able to explain. His reward was a 
rich benefice at Bologna; but not long after this the 
Cardinal de' Medici was elected Pope, and before 
he left the conclave, the vote of which had raised 
him to the throne, he named Bembo his secretary, 
with an annual salary of three thousand scudi, and 
his friend Sadoleto for his associate in the office. 

The favour which he enjoyed with Leo at the 
commencement of his pontificate, he retained to its 
F 2 


conclusion; and the manner in which he and his 
companion performed the duties of their office, 
was universally commended. It has been seen 
that the accomplished Petrarch rejected the ap- 
pointment of Apostolic secretary, alleging that he 
was unable to write in the plain and concise style 
requisite for a man of business. There was, it 
is not improbable, much truth in this assertion, 
though employed only as an excuse to save himself 
from the galling yoke to which the situation would 
have exposed him. Bembo and Sadoleto were 
better scholars than poets, and the elegant brevity 
and propriety of their epistles deserved the praise 
they obtained. But besides acting as secretary, 
the former was repeatedly sent on different mis- 
sions, which no one but a confidential servant of the 
Pope could execute; and for his exertions, though 
not uniformly crowned with success, he was re- 
warded with benefices, of which the revenue 
amounted to three thousand florins of gold. 

In May or June 1519, he had the misfortune to 
lose his father, who expired before he could arrive 
at Venice to receive his last blessing. His afflic- 
tion at this circumstance was deep, nor was his 
sorrow lightened, it appears, at his discovering that 
the circumstances of Bernardo were too embar- 

BEMBO. 101 

rassed to give him any hope of receiving the for- 
tune he had expected. This disappointment, how- 
ever, did not prevent his bestowing on his niece, at 
whose nuptials he presided, a dowry of three thou- 
sand florins; after which he returned to Rome, and 
applied himself with such unceasing perseverance 
to business during the day, and study at night, 
that he fell into an illness from which his physi- 
cians almost despaired of his recovery.* At the 
persuasion of the Pope and other friends, he re- 
solved to try the efficacy of the baths of Padua, 
which had the desired effect; but he was no sooner 
restored to health, than he lost his patron Leo, and 
considering this as a divine monition to return to 
the peaceful occupations of literature, he deter- 
mined to bid adieu to courts, and accordingly hired 
an excellent house at Padua, where he fixed his 
permanent abode.f 

In the furnishing of this residence and that of 
his favourite rural retreat, Villabozza, in the neigh- 
bourhood, he expended considerable sums of money, 
and exercised his taste in collecting works of art, 
which it was become the fashion of the wealthy to 
see around them. While his library was supplied 
with the rarest manuscripts, his cabinets were 

* Beccatelli. t Idem. 


crowded with the relics of Egypt and Greece, and 
learned men from all parts of the country sought 
his mansion as one of the most elegant retreats 
of learning and philosophy in Italy. Thus pro- 
vided with an ample income, and possessing all the 
means for prosecuting his favourite studies with 
success, he found himself in the enjoyment of that 
enviable repose and comfort which form the bright- 
est prospect the imagination of a literary man can 
create. Instead of having to compose either ora- 
tions or epistles on matters of business, he was 
free to follow the original inclination of his mind, 
and he produced at this period the chief of his 
most esteemed pieces both in Latin and Italian. 

At the election of Clement VII. he returned to 
Rome, but only for the purpose of showing his 
respect to the new Pope, or, in the words of his 
Italian biographers, " to kiss his foot." He was 
attacked during his brief visit with another serious 
illness, and probably on this account hastened back 
to Padua quicker than he otherwise would. The 
first object which engaged his attention on his re- 
turn, was the publication of a volume of prose pieces 
which he had presented to Clement in manuscript. 
This took place at the end of 1524, or in the begin- 
ning of the following year ; and his reputation for 

BEMBO. 103 

learning and ability was so great in Venice, that on 
the death of Andrea Navagero, who had been ap- 
pointed to write the history of that Republic, he 
was chosen to perform the important and honour- 
able task. 

Though at the time of his receiving this mark of 
respect from his countrymen he was sixty years 
old, neither his faculties nor his enthusiasm for 
study had suffered decay. The course of his lite- 
rary pursuits had not yet led him to historical 
composition, but this in no way deterred him from 
the undertaking ; and choosing the Commentaries 
of Caesar as his model in respect to style, he 
began his work with the zeal and spirit of a 
youthful scholar. He suffered nothing during its 
progress to divert his mind from the proper per- 
formance of the design, and it was not till the 
death of Clement or the accession of Paul III. that 
he intermitted the inquiries in which he was now 
so deeply involved. 

The Church of Rome was at this time, even 
according to the confession of its most resolute 
advocates, disfigured to a frightful degree by the 
vices of all orders of its clergy. Paul, therefore, 
seeing the necessity of seeking some remedy for 
the dangers with which it was threatened, resolved 


to begin by introducing into the college of Cardi- 
nals men of approved ability. The Republic of 
Venice, in the mean while, had obtained his per- 
mission to name some eminent individual of that 
State for the high honour of the purple. So many, 
however, were the candidates who presented thenj- 
selves, that the Senate found it difficult to choose 
between them, and at last requested the Pope 
himself to make the nomination. Paul, on the 
recommendation of Cardinal Contarini, immediately 
named Bembo, who, it is said, was perfectly un- 
aware of what was passing in his favour. The 
statement, perhaps, as to his ignorance and uncon- 
cern about this affair, ought to be received with 
some hesitation. Padua was not so far from Ve- 
nice that a man like Bembo was likely to remain 
unacquainted with what was passing in its coun- 
cils ; and there is little reason to believe, from any 
passage in his life, that he would regard an ap- 
pointment of either dignity or profit with indiffer- 
ence. But whatever might be his feelings on the 
subject originally, they were speedily put in mo- 
tion by the manner in which his nomination was 
received by a strong party at Rome. So far from 
owning him to be a fit person for the dignity, 
they asserted that his writings were more like 

BEMBO. 105 

those of a heathen than of a Christian believer ; and 
that instead of his adorning the high station by the 
purity of his character, it would be disgraced by 
the known disregard of which he was guilty to the 
laws of the Scriptures and the Church. 

In explanation of this accusation it must be 
mentioned, that Bembo had given very substantial 
cause for the severity with which his character 
was treated. He had for several years not only 
enjoyed one of the chief posts in the Pontifical go- 
vernment, but been in possession of many large and 
important benefices, and nearly the whole of this 
time he lived in open connexion with a mistress, 
by whom he had three children, and whose praises 
he publicly celebrated in his verses. If the charac- 
ter, indeed, of this man be considered, it will enable 
us to form some idea of what the Roman Church 
must have been at the period to which we allude. 
The few persons who opposed his election to the 
purple are generally represented as his personal 
enemies or rivals ; but with the exception of these 
his nomination was received with the highest ap- 
plause, and he was regarded as fitted to become 
one of the greatest ornaments of the sacred col- 
lege. But what virtues, it may be fairly asked, 
had this celebrated writer exhibited to merit being 
F 5 


placed among the " eminentissimi" of a Christian 
Church ? Or in what manner had he shown his 
zeal for the establishment, except in seeking the 
richest benefices it could confer, and living upon 
their revenues in ease and luxury ? 

The opposition, however, which was made to 
his election roused his indignation, and he replied 
to the invectives of his enemies by writing a long 
letter to the Pope in defence of his conduct and 
character, which had the effect of confirming the 
Pontiff in his original intentions, and he was cre- 
ated a Cardinal on March 24, 1539. The reception 
he met with from his brother Cardinals was such as 
might be expected by so great a favourite with the 
Pope ; and he began his career as a prince of the 
Church with the most flattering prospects. His 
friends Sadoleto, Contarino, Morono > and Cortesio, 
had already been advanced to the same station, 
and he enjoyed in the company of these distin- 
guished men the first fruits of his good fortune. 

But it has to be mentioned to the credit of 
Bembo, that shortly after his receiving the purple 
he entered the priesthood, and determined thence- 
forward to devote his attention more exclusively 
to the duties of his high station in the Church. 
Though he continued, therefore, his " History of 

BEMBO. 107 

Venice," he now began the serious study of theo- 
logy, and read the works of St. Gregory and other 
esteemed authors on divinity. This attention to 
his profession was not left unrewarded, and the 
bishopric of Gubbio becoming vacant he was ap- 
pointed to that diocese in July 1541. Shortly 
after this he returned to Padua, where he re- 
mained some months; and was again resident at 
the Pontifical court the following year, when he 
received the additional preferment of the parish 
of Santa Maria in the diocese of Trevigi. 

We next find him occupied with the nuptials 
of his daughter Elena, whom he gave with a con- 
siderable dowry to Pietro Gradenigo ; after which 
he proceeded to his diocese of Gubbio, where 
he remained till his desire of popularity, and his 
readiness to meet the demonstrations of affection 
he received from his people with corresponding 
hospitality, involved him in debt; and he was on 
the eve of falling . into the most unpleasant em- 
barrassments when Paul bestowed upon him the 
bishopric of Bergamo and recalled him to Rome. 
He remained there from this period till his death, 
preserving the entire favour of the Pope, and of 
by far the greater number of his colleagues in the 
sacred college. So high, indeed, was the repu- 


tation he enjoyed, that he would probably have 
been raised to the Papacy had he lived long 
enough. But, according to his eulogists, he was 
as far from desiring this honour as he was from 
wishing to be elected a Cardinal, and he is reported 
to have told a friend that he would not accept the 
dignity should it ever be offered him. 

His constitution had for some time before his 
death been greatly injured by continual attacks of 
the gout ; and a blow he gave himself in passing a 
doorway bringing on a slow fever, his health grew 
daily worse till the 18th of January 1547, when he 
expired, leaving his son Torquato his heir, and 
two Cardinals, Farnese and another, the protectors 
of his literary remains. 

Cardinal Bembo's reputation depends entirely 
upon the classical elegance of his taste, which 
without genius, or the higher attributes of mind, 
made him conspicuous among his contemporaries, 
and has handed his name down to posterity as 
that of one of the chief revivers of modern learn- 
ing. His Latinity was considered purer than that 
of any preceding Italian scholar, and he has re- 
ceived the praise of being the first successful 
imitator of Cicero and other admired writers of the 
Augustan age. In his native language he was 

BEMBO. 109 

one of the most successful of Petrarch's numerous 
followers; but the reader will not require to be 
told that when Bembo has received this the high- 
est praise to which he could lay claim, his station 
must be very low among the great men with whom 
we are concerned. That he exercised considerable 
influence on the literary taste of the age there can 
be little doubt ; but an imitator, however successful, 
or whatever be the object of his imitation, must 
never be ranked as the same species of intellectual 
being as he, who either by the inspiration of genius, 
or the exercise of a noble moral energy, has seen 
truth and beauty face to face himself, and not 
merely in the mirror of another's language. To 
those who have a right feeling of respect for the 
powers of the human mind, or wish well to the 
literature of a country, such men as Bembo will 
never appear worthy of great esteem. Virgil and 
Cicero, and the rest of the classics, cannot be too 
much studied or admired; but it is not by their 
lucid style or the musical concatenation of their 
phrases that they have held the hearts of genera- 
tions in subjection ; these were but the accidents 
of the power on which their glory depended the 
calmness of the surface resulting from the depth 
of the stream. Their imitators, on the contrary? 


were correct and elegant in language, because they 
made that the first and almost only object of their 
attention ; and the evil was, that in proportion as 
they gained admirers, readers ceased to place the 
proper value on originality of thought, and writers 
to strive after any higher excellence or any nobler 
sphere of inquiry, than what had been already 
attained or explored. Hence the barrenness of the 
poetical literature of Italy during the succeeding 
age, and hence the decline of English poetry after 
the time of Pope. Bembo, and all such writers, 
while they soften and regulate a language, sa- 
crifice what is divine to what is human, that is, 
thought and invention to style ; and do the same 
as if they cut down an American forest to make 
way for a greenhouse, or dried a sea to a lake that 
it might be safe for a pleasure-barge. 

The principal works of Bembo are, 1. The His- 
tory of Venice, mentioned above, and which did 
not appear till four years after the death of the 
author. The style is elegant, but has been very 
justly found fault with for its close imitation of 
Cicero, and an affectation of classical phraseology, 
where it was manifestly improper for the subject, 
and inadequate to the sense it was intended to 
convey. Such instances as the following are cited 


in support of this objection; the word Dea em- 
ployed for the Virgin Mary persuasio for theolo- 
gical faith the phrase aqua et igni interdictio for 
excommunication and, respecting the election of 
the Pope, Deorum immortaliwn beneficio. He is 
also accused of being negligent in the chronology 
putting the days of the month on which particular 
events 'took place but omitting the year. 2. His 
Treatises, or rather Dialogues, on the Vulgar Lan- 
guage ; by which he obtained the credit of being 
one of the first writers, if not the first, who re- 
duced Italian to grammatical rules. 3. Gli Aso- 
lani, already mentioned. 4. Le Rime. 5. Lettere. 
6. Proposto a nome di Leone X. al Senato Vini- 
ziano. 7. Epistolarum Leonis X. P. M. nomine 
scriptarum Libri XVI. 8. Epistolarum Famili- 
arum Libri VI. 9. De Guido Ubaldo Feretico, 
deque Elisabetha Gonzagia Urbini Ducibus Liber 
ad Nicolaum Theapolum. 10. De Virgilii Culice 
et Terentii Fabulis Liber ad HerculenT Strozium. 

11. De ^Etna Liber ad Angelum Gabrielem. 

12. De Imitatione. 13. Carmina. Besides these 
printed works he also left several which are still 
in manuscript, and will probably ever remain so. 
As far as subject is concerned, however, they 
would be much more interesting than most of those 


of which I have given the titles ; one is, Provincia- 
lium Poetarum Carmina, et Vitae, a work which it 
appears he had many opportunities of rendering 
highly valuable, as he possessed several manu- 
scripts and other materials for investigating the 


* Mazzuchelli. 

Cfje fcffe of ^Tittorta CMonna. 


it takes the form and substance of the heart, so 
when it exists naturally in woman, unmixed with 
affectation or an ambitious pretension to learning, 
it only speaks the language of feminine affections ; 
the power it gives being chiefly precious to her 
because she is the better able to express the 
emotions which elevate her mind, and to give an 
enduring existence to names and objects which she 
would not have perish. 

Vittoria Colonna was born in the castle of Ma- 
rino, in the year 1490. Her father was Fabricio 
Colonna, Grand Constable of Naples, and her mo- 
ther Anna di Montefeltro, daughter of the Duke 
of Urbino. The beauty of her person, and the 
many indications she gave of superior mental 
powers, were remarkable from her infancy,' and 
she was scarcely four years old when her parents 
affianced her to the son of Don Alphonso d' Avalos, 
Marquis of Pescara, a child of the same age as 
herself. As her years increased, her beauty and 
genius became the objects of universal admiration, 
and her hand was sought in marriage by the Dukes 
of Savoy and Braganza. But the honour of her 
parents and her own affection for her affianced 
lover, prevented any breach of the original con- 
tract ; and in their seventeenth year their marriage 


was solemnized with all the splendour becoming 
the union of two of the noblest families in Italy.* 

The desire of distinction which animated her 
husband, Ferdinando Francesco, separated them 
after a brief enjoyment of domestic happiness. 
Full of hope that the approaching contest between 
the King of France and the Venetians with their 
respective allies would furnish him with the op- 
portunity of exercising his valour, he set out for 
the royal camp, and at his parting with Vittoria 
received from her hands a superb pavilion and 
an embroidered standard bearing the inscription 
" Nunquam minus otiosus, quam cum otiosus erat 
ille," originally said in reference to Vespasian. 
Besides these she presented him with some leaves 
of palm in token of her hope that he would return 
crowned with honour, and then bade him farewell, 
suffering herself to be consoled by the hope of 
seeing him serve his country in a manner becoming 
his name and character. 

The first tidings she received from him encou- 
raged her to believe that their most sanguine 
wishes would be fulfilled. He was chosen Captain- 
General of the Imperial cavalry, and thus placed 
in a situation in which his ability had full scope for 

* Giam. Rota. 


it takes the form and substance of the heart, so 
when it exists naturally in woman, unmixed with 
affectation or an ambitious pretension to learning, 
it only speaks the language of feminine affections ; 
the power it gives being chiefly precious to her 
because she is the better able to express the 
emotions which elevate her mind, and to give an 
enduring existence to names and objects which she 
would not have perish. 

Vittoria Colonna was born in the castle of Ma- 
rino, in the year 1490. Her father was Fabricio 
Colonna, Grand Constable of Naples, and her mo- 
ther Anna di Montefeltro, daughter of the Duke 
of Urbino. The beauty of her person, and the 
many indications she gave of superior mental 
powers, were remarkable from her infancy,' and 
she was scarcely four years old when her parents 
affianced her to the son of Don Alphonso d' Avalos, 
Marquis of Pescara, a child of the same age as 
herself. As her years increased, her beauty and 
genius became the objects of universal admiration, 
and her hand was sought in marriage by the Dukes 
of Savoy and Braganza. But the honour of her 
parents and her own affection for her affianced 
lover, prevented any breach of the original con- 
tract ; and in their seventeenth year their marriage 


was solemnized with all the splendour becoming 
the union of two of the noblest families in Italy.* 

The desire of distinction which animated her 
husband, Ferdinando Francesco, separated them 
after a brief enjoyment of domestic happiness. 
Full of hope that the approaching contest between 
the King of France and the Venetians with their 
respective allies would furnish him with the op- 
portunity of exercising his valour, he set out for 
the royal camp, and at his parting with Vittoria 
received from her hands a superb pavilion and 
an embroidered standard bearing the inscription 
" Nunquam minus otiosus, quam cum otiosus erat 
ille," originally said in reference to Vespasian. 
Besides these she presented him with some leaves 
of palm in token of her hope that he would return 
crowned with honour, and then bade him farewell, 
suffering herself to be consoled by the hope of 
seeing him serve his country in a manner becoming 
his name and character. 

The first tidings she received from him encou- 
raged her to believe that their most sanguine 
wishes would be fulfilled. He was chosen Captain- 
General of the Imperial cavalry, and thus placed 
in a situation in which his ability had full scope for 

* Giam. Rota. 


action ; but a few months after their prospects were 
sadly changed. In the battle of Ravenna, while 
fighting at the head of his troops, he was taken 
prisoner and conveyed to Milan. He was, how- 
ever, confined only a short time, during which he 
amused himself by composing a Dialogo d' Amore, 
addressed to his wife, and replete with lamenta- 
tions at the hard fate which separated them. 
Vittoria made a device from the ideas contained 
in this composition, and inclosed a little Cupid in 
a circle formed by the figure of a serpent and bear- 
ing this line, 

" Quern peperit virtus, prudentia servet amorem." 

Francesco's deliverance from confinement did 
not enable him to return to his consort, who conti- 
nued to occupy her time with literature, and the 
correspondence they had unceasingly kept up since 
his departure. In order, however, to have the 
opportunity of occasionally seeing him, Vittoria 
removed from Ischia to Naples, where she was 
joined by her husband whenever the duties of his 
high station in the army would allow of his ab- 
sence. But these meetings were rare and brief, 
and her days were still employed in reading 
the best productions of ancient and modern times ; 


or in composing those poems which obtained 
her so great a reputation throughout Italy. The 
subject of her muse was almost always the actions 
of her husband ; and Bullart observes, " that she 
sang his virtues in Tuscan verses so elevated and 
worthy of their subject, that she seemed to be a 
new Muse destined to publish the renown of that 
great Captain, and to inspire the praises due to 
warlike merit." 

In the memorable battle of Pavia, which saw 
the heroic but unfortunate Francis I. fall into the 
hands of his enemies, the Marquis of Pescara 
reaped the chief honours of the day, and there was 
every reason to suppose that he would be imme- 
diately rewarded by the Emperor in a manner 
befitting the actions he had performed. But the 
envy of those about him was the chief consequence 
of his victory, and the opposite party conceiving 
hopes of forming a new league against the Em- 
peror, thought that he was in a fit mood to be 
bribed to espouse their cause. Gieronimo Morone 
was the agent employed to sound his opinions on 
the subject; and were I writing the life of Fran- 
cesco instead of Vittoria it would be worth while 
to repeat the ingenious arguments he employed on 
the occasion. The reward, however, held out to 


the Marquis to engage his compliance, was the 
kingdom of Naples, which Morone asserted the 
Pope and the allies would without doubt confer 
upon him, besides which, it was added, he would 
obtain eternal honour by freeing afflicted Italy from 
the misfortunes she was then suffering, and thus se- 
cure to himself a wealthy kingdom, the command 
of a noble army, and an immortal name.* 

Francesco, though of a high and honourable 
disposition, yielded to the practices of Morone 
and his party ; but Vittoria was tremblingly alive 
to the reputation of her husband, and in a letter 
written to him at this period she expresses her- 
self in the strongest manner on the subject. 
She represented to him that he had acquired a 
glory more illustrious than could be conferred 
by kingdoms or lofty titles a glory won by ho- 
nourable fidelity and noble virtue, and which 
would serve as a perpetual inheritance of praise to 
his descendants ; that there is nothing so lofty in 
royalty which may not be easily surpassed by the 
loftiness of a perfect virtue, and that she there- 
fore desired to be the wife not of a king but of 
a captain who was not only mighty by his arm in 
war but who even in peace, by the great honour 

* Paolo Giovio. 


of his just and invincible mind, knew how to con- 
quer the greatest kings. 

Neither the exhortations however of Vittoria, nor 
his own sense of right, prevailed upon the Marquis 
to resist the temptations with which he was as- 
sailed ; but the wounds he had received in battle 
and his imprudent excess in drinking water while 
suffering extreme heat and fatigue, had made such 
ravages on his frame that he found it necessary 
to warn his wife of his dangerous condition. On 
receiving this alarming intelligence she immedi- 
ately set out for Milan, and as she passed through 
Rome was entertained there with the most honour- 
able distinctions ; but, continuing her journey as 
rapidly as possible, she had only reached Viterbo 
when she was met by a messenger bearing the 
intelligence that her husband had breathed his 

Francesco with his dying lips had recommended 
Vittoria to the protection of his cousin and the 
inheritor of his estates, the Marquis del Vasto ; 
but her grief at first admitted of no consolation, 
and she fell into a profound melancholy, which for 
a short time deprived her of the use of reason. 
Her despondency, however, at length gave way to 
a milder sorrow, and she found in her favourite 



studies a relief to afflictions which would have 
wholly overwhelmed a mind less fruitful in sources 
of consolation. Many who knew her conceived 
it unfit that so beautiful a woman, only thirty-five 
years of age, should pass the remainder of her life 
in retirement ; and her brothers, it is said, strongly 
persuaded her to marry one of the many princes 
who endeavoured to obtain her hand. But to all 
their arguments she uniformly replied, that though 
her husband might seem dead to others, he was 
still living and always present to her. Her 
poems breathe the same sentiments every thought 
which passed through her mind seems either to 
have sprung from the remembrance of her hus- 
band, or the instant it rose on her mind to have 
become connected with it; her verses were thus 
rendered so true to natural feeling, that it has been 
observed by more than one Italian writer, she car- 
ried away the palm from all her contemporaries in 
the expression of the affections. 

For seven years she thus struggled with her 
sorrow, finding a greater source of comfort in 
honouring the memory of her husband than in any 
other employment; but her affliction still pressed 
too heavily to be either removed or considerably 
diminished by her present endeavours. Religion 


alone offered her the means of lightening her 
distress without disturbing the sacred objects she 
had enshrined in her memory. She might have 
mixed in the world, and its amusements might have 
distracted her thoughts from the painful feelings 
which oppressed her ; but her fidelity to her hus- 
band's name forbade her doing any thing which 
should render him less present to her mind, and 
she preferred enduring the heaviest griefs to soft- 
ening them by means which might interfere with 
her resolution of being as faithful to him when 
dead as while living. But in the offices of religion 
she found, at the same time, a support to her 
afflicted mind, and indications of a futurity which 
authorized the feelings that had hitherto been only 
like the dreamings of fancy ; giving, therefore, a 
freer flight to her Muse, she now began to write on 
subjects connected with divine truths, and com- 
posed a great variety of canzone and sonnets, to 
which she gave the title of " Rime Spiritual!." 

In the spring of 1537 she made a journey to 
Lucca, and from thence to Ferrara, with the in- 
tention of spending some time there. While re- 
siding in the latter city she is said to have formed 
a design of travelling to Jerusalem, and would 
certainly have put it in execution but for the 
G 2 


Marquis del Vasto, who prudently forbade her ex- 
posing herself- to such an enterprise. As some 
compensation, however, for her disappointment in 
this respect, she proceeded to Rome, where she 
arrived about the month of April 1538. The 
reputation she had acquired by her writings and 
the nobleness of her character, made her an object 
of still greater reverence than she was on her 
former visit, when she entered the city as the wife 
of the most celebrated captain of Italy. Among 
the many distinguished men who sought to express 
their veneration for her talents and exalted cha- 
racter were Cardinal Pole and Cardinal Contarini, 
between whom and Vittoria there existed a con- 
stant friendship and correspondence till it was ter- 
minated by death. Bembo was also another of the 
personages who paid her similar respect, and it is 
said that it was in some degree to her influence 
with the Pontiff that he owed his elevation to the 
purple. Of the respect, indeed, with which her 
opinions were regarded at the Papal Court a cu- 
rious proof is to be found in a letter from Molza to 
his son, in which, speaking of some business which 
required great interest, he says, that their success 
would greatly depend upon her expected visit to 
Rome ; that he knew of no person who could 


render them greater assistance, and that by her 
authority and good-will she would probably be 
able to effect more than the letters of either the 
Pope or the Cardinals.* It is also certain that 
she was the munificent friend of many learned 
men in distress, whose necessities she relieved 
either by her purse or the exercise of her powerful 

As she advanced in years she became more and 
more desirous of escaping entirely from the world, 
and in March 1541 she finally resolved on as- 
suming the religious habit. In conformity with 
this determination she entered the monastery Di 
Suore, in Orvietto, where, however, she remained 
only a few months, but took up her settled abode 
in that of Saint Catherine in Viterbo. Little, it 
appears, is known respecting her from this pe- 
riod, and we are not to be surprised that the 
life of a female immured within the walls of a 
convent should present few circumstances re- 
quiring record. It is, however, well attested 
that, though retired from the world, her charity 
lost nothing of its activity, and that none of her 
sisters surpassed her in the purity or fervour 
of their devotion. In August 1542 she was still 

* Giam. Rota. 


resident in the same monastery, as is proved by a 
letter of that date ;* but at the beginning of 1547 
she had returned to Rome, and was living in the 
Palazzo Cesarini, where she was seized with a 
mortal malady, and died at the end of February in 
the year above mentioned. 

Few writers have received greater eulogiums 
than Vittoria Colonna. Nearly nine closely printed 
pages of Rota's edition are taken up with quota- 
tions from the testimonies of learned men in her 
favour. In the first impression of her poems, 
published at Parma in 1538, the epithet Divina is 
applied to her name, and in that which appeared 
at Venice, about two years after, the term Diva. 
Crescembini, in speaking of her writings, says, that 
" the barbarity of the previous age had received 
no greater blow than that which was given 
it by this valorous lady, in whom not only the 
Muses but the Sciences seemed to have taken up 
their abode, as if Heaven had placed its choicest 
treasures where they would be most safely pre- 
served." Another author, Giammateo Toscano, 
says that she was second to no poet but Petrarch ; 
and Francesco Agostino, that there is not an Italian 
writer of that age, whether in prose or verse, who 

* Giam. Rota. 


has not celebrated and commended her above all 
others of her sex ; while to the testimony of these 
critics may be added the far more valuable one 
of Ariosto, who has more than once mentioned her 
in his poems as the glory of Italy and of her sex. 

Some allowance must be made in these remarks 
for the hyperboles in which the writers of former 
days were fond of indulging. Vittoria Colonna was 
doubtless a woman of considerable genius, and of 
a character which added the lustre of virtue, to 
that of a noble intellect. But her writings, though 
possessing many graces blended with the power- 
ful feelings of sorrow that for the greater part of 
her life oppressed her spirit, must have been 
much more various both in style and invention to 
preserve her in the high rank to which her con- 
temporaries' raised her. Few poems, however, de- 
dicated to the praise of an individual, are equal 
to those which this admirable woman wrote in 
honour of her husband's actions and memory, and 
there are equally few which with so much piety of 
thought combine so much genuine poetic feeling. 

of Hietro ^rettnot 

G 5 


THIS celebrated satirist, more feared in his 
time than either kings or conquerors, obtained 
from his contemporaries the epithet of the Di- 
vine, from the celebrity, or perhaps the licen- 
tious freedom of some of his compositions, and of 
the Scourge of Princes from the severity of others. 
His proper name he owed to the place of his 
birth, and that he ever acquired even the ele- 
ments of learning appears to have been a matter of 
chance, and was entirely the fruit of his quick 
and precocious intellect. He was born at Arezzo, 
on the night of the 19th or 20th of April 1492, 
or as his Italian biographers express it, in the 


show what his feelings still were respecting the 
superstitions of his countrymen ; but as there was 
no proof of extraordinary wit or judgment in what 
he did in this instance, it can only be regarded as 
an act of petulant levity. There was exposed on 
the walls of one of the churches in the town a 
picture of the Virgin Mary kneeling at the feet of 
Christ, with her arms extended in adoration. Are- 
tino contemplated it in the midst of an adoring 
multitude, but as soon as the streets were clear 
he returned, and secretly delineated a lute be- 
tween the extended arms of the Virgin. 

Notwithstanding the attractions of Perugia, 
and the advantages he enjoyed through the at- 
tention of several learned men whose notice he 
had won by different literary essays, he made 
such slow advances in improving his means of 
support, that he found it necessary to seek some 
other field for the exercise of his talents. Rome 
offered the greatest temptation to his adven- 
turous disposition, and he set out for that city, 
being obliged by his poverty to make the journey 
on foot, and carrying nothing from Perugia but 
the clothes on his back. It is not known how he 
proposed to better his fortune in Rome, but it is 
probable that he carried recommendations with 


him from the acquaintances he had lately formed, 
as soon after his arrival in the capital he became 
attached to the house of a wealthy and powerful 
merchant, Agostini Chigii. The nature of the situ- 
ation which he held is also as little known as what 
his intentions were on leaving Perugia ; but it is 
seldom that a man like Aretino remains long with- 
out finding a master, or that the latter, having 
once discovered the character of his servant, is 
doubtful how to employ him. Whatever was the 
occupation in which he was engaged, he so far 
satisfied his employer as to remain a considerable 
time in his service, and by his means was made 
acquainted with several personages about the Pon- 
tifical Court. 

It was doubtless to the circumstance last men- 
tioned that he owed the materials of many of his 
satires. The Pontificate of Leo the Tenth was 
made a brilliant era for Italian learning and philo- 
sophy by the taste and patronage of that celebrated 
Pontiff; but it is well known how grossly he suf- 
fered the simplicity of religion to be corrupted, to 
supply the means of patronizing learning and 
the arts. Christendom has never been perhaps 
in a worse condition, than during the period 
he presided over the then Catholic Church. On 


one side were nearly all the distinguished lite- 
rary men of the age, devoted to the elucidation of 
purely philosophical systems, wholly taken up with 
admiration of Platonism, and resting not only their 
chances of reputation, but their hopes of doing good 
on the propagation of classical learning; on the 
other side was the great mass of the people, still 
far from being in a condition to profit by the sciences 
then in vogue, and regarded by the higher ranks of 
their spiritual guides much in the same manner as 
the haughtiest philosophers of old considered the 
multitude. The populace of Italy, and of every 
country in Christendom, would therefore have been 
left to follow its own mood, and make a religion for 
itself, had they not been profitable tributaries, and 
on that account to be kept in faithful subjection. 
How this was to be effected, it was not difficult for 
the weakest politician to discover. Ages had natu- 
ralized superstition in the hearts of men, and when 
this is the case, they may be governed by means 
from which a mere child, nourished with truth, 
would free himself with a smile of contempt. No- 
thing had yet occurred of any moment in Italy to 
make its sacred politicians suppose any change in 
their plans requisite, and a necessity for taxing 
the people's credulity was no sooner apparent, than 


they invented methods for the immediate exercise 
of their power. Hence the gross and wicked im- 
postures of indulgences and the purchase of masses 
and hence the darkness which overspread the 
Christian world, while learning and the arts in one 
or two favoured corners were protected and cul- 
tivated with the most distinguished success. 

But it was not of ambition only, or of subjecting 
the people to superstitions which might be made a 
profitable source of revenue, that the Pontiff and 
his courtiers had to be accused. The lives they 
spent were a contradiction to all their professions 
of Apostolic humility ; and though the natural ele- 
vation of Leo's mind prevented his degenerating 
into a vulgar sensualist, there were many among 
the highest of the clergy whose conduct was marked 
by a degrading profligacy, not the less disgusting 
to those who had opportunities of discovering it, 
because it was hidden from the world at large. 

It was in the houses of these men that Aretino 
now passed much of his time. He had already 
been witness to the base ignorance of the people in 
the country ; he had shown his contempt of their 
superstition by every means in his power, and it 
was not likely that his opinions would undergo much 
alteration from the discoveries he had at present 


the opportunity of making. If the lessons of priests 
and monks appeared worthy of ridicule when he 
only saw the superstitions they propagated among 
the vulgar, they could hardly fail of being doubly 
so when he found that the powerful regarded them 
as nothing better than instruments of gain. He 
might have been a satirist a daring and licentious 
one had he been placed in other circumstances ; 
but certainly none could have been fitter than those 
in which he now found himself, to throw into a 
ferment the bitter gall which seems to have been 
mixed with his blood from his very infancy. It 
appears, however, that he was as well qualified to 
play the part of a courtier himself, as to expose 
and lash the vices of his colleagues. We hear 
nothing of his incurring the reprehension of the 
princes and nobles of the Church, till the circum- 
stance occurred which occasioned his retirement 
from Rome ; and it is probable, therefore, that 
during the six or seven years he spent there, he 
chiefly exercised his favourite talent in secret, feed- 
ing his splenetic disposition with a careful observa- 
tion of popular men, and only shooting his arrows 
at the instigation of his patrons, and that rarely 
and with caution. 

But his politic disposition was not always proof 


against temptation. It happened that some pro- 
fligate persons at Rome had induced the celebrated 
painter Giulio Romano to degrade his genius to 
the level of their base and corrupt taste. The pro- 
ductions of his pencil, guided by the will of such 
patrons, were not only unworthy of the artist, but 
deserving the strongest reprehension, on account 
of their licentious character ; they were, however, 
engraved by Marc Antonio of Bologna, and their 
circulation necessarily attracted the attention of 
the public authorities. Both the painter and en- 
graver were accordingly in danger of punishment 
for their violations of public decency: the former 
fled in time to secure his escape ; but the latter 
was apprehended, and thrown into close confine- 
ment. The punishment which awaited him was 
severe, but he had the good luck to be acquainted 
with Aretino ; and so much influence had the latter 
gained since his residence in the capital, that he 
was enabled by his exertions to deliver the terri- 
fied engraver from his dangerous predicament. It 
would have been well for the satirist if he could 
have contented himself with this share in the busi- 
ness ; but, as if tempted by the perils in which his 
friends had been placed, he was unable to rest till 
he had written sixteen sonnets, which he appended 


to the offensive paintings, and which they far ex- 
ceeded, if possible, in disgusting ribaldry. 

Like most persons in his situation, he had many 
personal enemies, and a very short time elapsed 
before it was well known to the Pontiff who had 
written the licentious poems in illustration of Giu- 
lio Romano's pictures. Aretino, well aware of what 
he was to expect from the discovery, prepared 
immediately for his retreat, which he accomplished 
in safety, and returned to Arezzo. This event 
took place in the year 1524, and he seems to have 
been rendered as destitute as ever by the folly 
which forced him to leave the Pontifical Court so 

He continued but a short time in his native 
town, being invited, soon after his return, to visit 
Florence and the court of Giovanni de* Medici, 
who, with princely power, was directing the affairs 
of that Republic. Aretino speedily ingratiated 
himself in the affections of his new patron, who, 
just before his arrival at Florence, had broken his 
league with the Emperor, and entered into al- 
liance with Francis the First, King of France. In 
consequence of this association, Giovanni proceed- 
ed to Milan, where Francis then was, with his 
army, and, having taken Aretino with him, the 


poet had full scope for exercising his court-like 
ingenuity. So prosperously did he pursue the 
advantage thus afforded him, that he not only ac- 
quired additional influence with his protector, but 
won the favour of the French monarch, and ad- 
vanced every day in the career which his enter- 
prising mind had marked out. 

It is not precisely known to what cause he 
owed his reconciliation with the Pope ; but shortly 
after returning from Milan, he made a journey to 
Rome, where he remained some time, but again 
left it on account of a quarrel with Clement, sup- 
posed to have originated in the latter's neglecting 
to punish a person who, according to Aretino's 
own account, had attempted to assassinate him, 
prompted to the deed by the desire of revenging 
an insult which the satirist had passed upon him 
in a sonnet. 

The court of Giovanni again attracted his steps. 
During his absence, he had received letters from 
that Prince expressive of continued regard ; and 
in one of them the latter tells him that, having 
been at Pavia on a visit to the King of France, 
he was asked by the Monarch why he had not 
brought Aretino, whom he always desired to see, 
and directed to be invited by a special message 


to Pavia. So agreeable, indeed, were his manners 
and conversation to Giovanni, that he would now 
go nowhere without him, but made him his com- 
panion both in his retirement and in transacting 
the affairs of the Republic. 

But the hopes of Aretino were not suffered to 
remain long in this prosperous posture, Giovanni 
having received in battle a dangerous wound in 
the thigh, which rendered it necessary to re- 
move him to the palace of the Duke of Man- 
tua. While he lay there, Aretino was his constant 
companion, and sought, by every means in his 
power, to alleviate the sufferings of his generous 
benefactor; but neither the attentions of friend- 
ship, nor the skill of physicians, could stop the 
effects of the wound, and the limb was at length 
amputated. Whether owing to the weakness of 
his frame, or the inexperience of the operators, 
Giovanni was unable to support the trial, and, soon 
after the operation, expired in the arms of Aretino. 

Once more left without a patron, our poet re- 
solved that he would thenceforward live indepen- 
dent, trusting to his wit for the means of support, 
and maintaining himself, as he expresses it, by 
the sweat of his brow. Venice was the place he 
chose for his abode, and thither he proceeded on 


the 25th of March 1527. Many reasons may be 
alleged to account for his choosing the magnificent 
capital of the commercial world for his residence. 
He was to live by the exercise of his talents, and 
in Venice he might find not one patron, but a 
thousand, and be enriched by their rewards, and 
this without feeling dependent on any. At Venice 
lived the great Titian, and many men eminent for 
their wit and learning, who would know how to 
appreciate his abilities, and quicken them by ri- 
valry and competition, things, above all others, de- 
sirable to turbulent intellects like his. At Venice, 
pleasure had no restraint, and wantoned at will 
over the blue waves of the Adriatic, or through 
the splendid halls of gorgeous palaces. And at 
Venice, lastly, he could express himself as freely 
as he chose on matters of religion, without the fear 
of either the Pope, or his courtiers, or any other 
ecclesiastic it being a circumstance generally 
known, that this Republic preserved its indepen- 
dence of Rome throughout the many ages that it 
flourished ; that it despised all attempts made upon 
its independence, either by open or sinister means ; 
and that its inhabitants, though always professing 
themselves good Catholics, cared almost as little 
about the Sovereign Pontiff, when the interests of 


the State were at stake, as the Turks at Constan- 
tinople. The taste and temper of Aretino well 
fitted him for living among a people thus situa- 
ted ; and it is, therefore, not surprising to find 
him calling Venice, some time after his removal 
thither, " the paradise of the world." To add, 
moreover, to the general attractions of the place, 
he enjoyed the friendship of the Doge, Andrea 
Gritti, and lived on terms of close intimacy with 
other powerful and distinguished members of the 

The dislike he had conceived for Clement VII. 
on account of the circumstances which had twice 
driven him from Rome, had never been concealed ; 
and now that he was in Venice he expressed him- 
self more freely than ever respecting the Pontiff's 
character. His conversation and writings pro- 
duced a considerable sensation : the enemies of 
Clement did not fail to make the utmost use of 
his philippics ; and it is said, that the exertions of 
Aretino tended materially to bring on the siege 
of Rome, and the captivity of the Pope in the 
Castle of St. Angelo. Andrea Gritti at length ad- 
monished him to be less free in the employment 
of his invectives ; but he is supposed to have con- 
tinued to pour out his virulence against Clement 


for two years longer, when, owing either to a 
change in his opinions, or, which is by far the most 
likely, to the persuasions of the Doge and the 
hope of private advantage, he confessed himself 
to have been guilty of a great error in respect 
to the Pope, and wrote to him, expressing his 
penitence, and his desire to be reconciled to his 

Nothing can better show the influence which 
Aretino had acquired, and the dread attached to 
his name, than the ready manner in which the 
offended and even insulted Pontiff accepted his 
return to allegiance. Through the medium of his 
friend Vasone, Suffragan Bishop of Vicenza, he re- 
ceived a pontifical brief, to which he replied by 
another penitential letter ; and about the same time 
he became reconciled with his other adversaries 
at Rome, among whom was the Bishop of Verona, 
Giammatteo Giberti ; but this prelate soon after 
offended him again, and was once more the object 
of his satires. It is to this period also we must 
refer the offer he received from the Emperor 
Charles V. to create him a Cavalier, but which he 
rejected, answering the Emperor, that a Cavalier 
without a fortune, was like a wall without a cross, 
exposed to every one who chose to insult him. 



the State were at stake, as the Turks at Constan- 
tinople. The taste and temper of Aretino well 
fitted him for living among a people thus situa- 
ted ; and it is, therefore, not surprising to find 
him calling Venice, some time after his removal 
thither, " the paradise of the world." To add, 
moreover, to the general attractions of the place, 
he enjoyed the friendship of the Doge, Andrea 
Gritti, and lived on terms of close intimacy with 
other powerful and distinguished members of the 

The dislike he had conceived for Clement VII. 
on account of the circumstances which had twice 
driven him from Rome, had never been concealed ; 
and now that he was in Venice he expressed him- 
self more freely than ever respecting the Pontiff's 
character. His conversation and writings pro- 
duced a considerable sensation : the enemies of 
Clement did not fail to make the utmost use of 
his philippics ; and it is said, that the exertions of 
Aretino tended materially to bring on the siege 
of Rome, and the captivity of the Pope in the 
Castle of St. Angelo. Andrea Gritti at length ad- 
monished him to be less free in the employment 
of his invectives ; but he is supposed to have con- 
tinued to pour out his virulence against Clement 


for two years longer, when, owing either to a 
change in his opinions, or, which is by far the most 
likely, to the persuasions of the Doge and the 
hope of private advantage, he confessed himself 
to have been guilty of a great error in respect 
to the Pope, and wrote to him, expressing his 
penitence, and his desire to be reconciled to his 

Nothing can better show the influence which 
Aretino had acquired, and the dread attached to 
his name, than the ready manner in which the 
offended and even insulted Pontiff accepted his 
return to allegiance. Through the medium of his 
friend Vasone, Suffragan Bishop of Vicenza, he re- 
ceived a pontifical brief, to which he replied by 
another penitential letter ; and about the same time 
he became reconciled with his other adversaries 
at Rome, among whom was the Bishop of Verona, 
Giammatteo Giberti ; but this prelate soon after 
offended him again, and was once more the object 
of his satires. It is to this period also we must 
refer the offer he received from the Emperor 
Charles V. to create him a Cavalier, but which he 
rejected, answering the Emperor, that a Cavalier 
without a fortune, was like a wall without a cross, 
exposed to every one who chose to insult him. 



The Cardinal of Ravenna, however, soon after be- 
stowed upon him a much more important advan- 
tage, in the shape of five hundred scudi, as a 
marriage portion for his sister. But of this rela- 
tive of the poet little is known, except that she 
did him no credit by her conduct, either before or 
after her marriage, as, in a letter to his benefactor, 
the Cardinal, he says, that of all the benefits he 
had conferred upon him, that had done him the 
least good which related to his sister. He had 
also another sister, of similar character ; but it is 
suspected, and with apparent justice, that much 
which has been said respecting them ought to be 
attributed to the invention of his enemies. 

But, notwithstanding the attentions and patron- 
age which he appears to have enjoyed in no slight 
degree during his residence at Venice, he became, 
from some cause or other, so discontented with 
his situation, that he declared his resolution to leave 
Italy for ever, and take up his residence at Con- 
stantinople. The reasons he alleged for this de- 
termination were, that the son of Andrea Gritti, 
then settled in the capital of the east, had invited 
him thither, and that he was so poor that he was 
obliged to accept the invitation from necessity. 
Neither of these causes, however, is allowed to 


have been the true one, the publication of his in- 
tention to leave Italy having originated, it is said, 
in the expectation that it would make his friends 
more anxious to retain him, and reward his talents 
with greater munificence. Whatever truth there 
may be in this supposition, it is certain that he 
never undertook his proposed journey, but, in ]534, 
visited Rome, then under the government of Pope 
Paul III., to recreate himself, as he says in one of 
his epistles, with the pleasures of the capital. His 
stay there was but short, and he returned to his 
favourite Venice, where he seems to have profited 
to the utmost by the subterfuge he had employed, 
or rather by the exercise of his wit, which, not- 
withstanding his former complaints, appears never 
to have wanted a ready market. 

It is supposed that about this time his income was 
rendered very considerable by pensions, and the 
sale of his works, which were rapidly circulated im- 
mediately on their appearance. So much were they 
esteemed by many persons, that a Spanish prince 
was accustomed to send a courier to Rome, for 
the sole purpose of procuring Aretino's publications 
the instant they came from the press. Nor were 
these the only instances of regard he received from 
the nobles and the public in general. He was visited 
H 2 


by the greatest princes, and by every description 
of persons who made any pretension to fashion or 
literature. Among the former was the Marquis of 
Montferrat, who both came to see him at Venice 
and invited him to his palace. While mentioning 
this circumstance to a friend in one of his epistles, 
he takes the opportunity of informing him at the 
same time of the prodigious popularity he enjoyed; 
and it is not a little amusing to hear how the book- 
binder of Perugia, who made his journey to Rome 
on foot, and with no other wealth than the clothes 
on his back, could describe his present prosperity 
and importance. " My head is broken," says he, 
in his usual style, " with the incessant visits of 
lords, and my steps are worn away with their con- 
tinual treading on them, as the pavement of the 
Capitol was worn by the wheels of triumphant cha- 
riots. Nor do I believe, by the way, that Rome 
ever saw such a concourse of people of all ages, as 
that which besieges my house ; Turks, Jews, In- 
dians, French, Germans, and Spaniards, are always 
seeking me, and you may imagine how it is with 
our Italians. Of the inferior kind of people I say 
nothing, since it is easier to draw you from your 
devotion to the Emperor, than to see me a mo- 
ment without soldiers, scholars, friars, or priests : 
I seem, indeed, to have; become a very oracle of 


truth, some one or other coming continually to 
tell me of the faults committed by this or that 
prince or prelate, by which means I am made, as 
it were, the secretary of the world at large, and 
I beg you will address me as such." 

That Aretino allowed himself the full latitude 
of his vanity and love of ridicule in this epis- 
tle, there is not much room to doubt, but it is 
equally certain, as Mazzuchelli properly observes,* 
that he really possessed a very extraordinary repu- 
tation, which was rendered the more remarkable 
from the circumstance that he owed the cultivation 
of his mind entirely, or principally so, to his own 
industry and perseverance. Of the intellectual 
dominion he had created for himself, there are 
ample proofs in the attention he received from the 
sovereigns of France and Germany. For many 
years he remained the willing adulator of both, and 
exercised his art as a courtier with such perfection, 
that, though no two masters could have been more 
difficult to serve at the same time, he succeeded in 
avoiding a breach with either. The power of his 
pen was such, that while each desired to obtain his 
influence, neither dared provoke his virulence by 
expressing dissatisfaction at his failure in entire 
devotion. Francis could claim his regard on the 

* Vita. 


strength of his alliance with Giovanni, and on the 
early respect which he showed for his genius ; the 
Emperor, on the other hand, rested his claims on 
the substantial foundation of a pension of two hun- 
dred scudi, which he authorized the satirist to draw 
from the state of Milan. At length, the latter de- 
termined to secure the whole of Aretino's favour 
by some greater exercise of imperial liberality, and 
for this purpose directed the Duke of Montmorenci 
to call on him, and make known his intentions. 
The Duke did so, and in the presence of one or two 
other noblemen told the poet, that if he would pro- 
mise to speak and write of the Emperor his master 
only as he did of the King of France, and without 
prejudice to truth, he would secure to him the 
yearly payment of four hundred scudi for life. 
Such an offer was not to be treated with disdain, 
and Aretino assured the Duke that he should re- 
joice to do honour to the name of the Emperor, that 
is, without prejudice to truth, and would begin 
to show his zeal in the cause the instant he found 
himself certain of receiving the promised pension. 
It is not known whether Francis offered a still 
higher price for his assistance, or whether the neg- 
lect of the Emperor's agents nullified the contract 
mentioned above, but Aretino remained faithful to 


his old patron Francis, and wrote of him in a manner 
which plainly showed that he was strongly inclined 
to his interest. 

It has been observed, that nothing could be more 
surprising than the sight of these powerful princes, 
and others only second to them in rank, thus hum- 
bling themselves to a man like Aretino, whose wit, 
according to the most respectable testimony, was 
far inferior to his arrogance.* Golden ornaments 
and presents of every description were poured in 
upon him from all quarters, in addition to the wealth 
he acquired from the sources already mentioned ; so 
that, according to his own words, he had received, 
in the course of about eighteen years, not less than 
twenty-five thousand scudi from the different pa- 
trons of his muse. That he acquired this large sum 
chiefly from the terror which he had taught men to 
feel at the naming of his satires, is beyond a doubt ; 
but it is not less certain, that he was also greatly 
assisted in his projects by the suppleness of his 
principles, and his readiness to flatter any one in 
power who had not deeply offended him. Thus, on 
the one side, he employed the threats of the sati- 
rist ; on the other, the arts of the parasite ; either 
of which has not been unfrequently found sufficient 

* Tiraboschi. 


for the purpose of a fortune-hunter, but which 
united in the same hand are next to omnipotent. 
" As the professed Flagello de' Principi," says the 
learned historian of Italian literature, " he seemed 
to threaten them with his vengeance, and the re- 
proach of their actions in his books ; but there was 
never a more sordid flatterer of the great, and there 
is not to be found in all his works a single word 
against any sovereign. The praises, therefore," 
continues his severe critic, " which he received 
from learned men ; the honour paid him by some 
academies, who enrolled him among their members ; 
the works dedicated to him by several persons, all 
which things are fully detailed by the Count Maz- 
zuchelli, show us to what a height of folly a fanatic 
adulation may carry people ; some from the desire 
of gaining from him the same praises which they 
gave ; and others, from abase fear of being pointed 
at in his satires." 

We may mention in this place, that there were 
not wanting persons among his contemporaries who 
considered that he was greatly assisted in his com- 
positions, while at Venice, by Niccolo Franco, a 
scholar of eminence, and who passed a considerable 
time in the house of Aretino, purchasing his pro- 
tection and pecuniary aid, it would seem, by com- 


municating the advantages he possessed in an 
extensive acquaintance with the writers of Greece 
and Rome. Some of the works of Aretino bear 
evident marks of greater erudition than he is be- 
lieved to have ever possessed himself ; and Niccolo, 
when he separated from him on account of a vio- 
lent quarrel, asserted, that many of Aretino's works 
were the produce of his intellect. The satirist, 
however, as might be supposed, strenuously denied 
the truth of this accusation, saying that the con- 
trary was altogether the case ; and in this asser- 
tion he was supported by Dolce and others of his 
friends, who affirmed that Franco was utterly inca- 
pable of aiding such a man in his studies, and that 
he was an ignorant and foolish boaster. 

Whatever truth or falsehood there might be in the 
accusation of his enemies, he continued to increase 
in reputation and influence ; and when Charles V. 
made his public visit to Venice, Guidubaldo, Duke 
of Urbino, one of the four Ambassadors chosen by 
Venice to represent the Republic, took Aretino 
with him when he set out to meet the Emperor. 
Notwithstanding the doubtful manner in which he 
had acted, he was received by the Sovereign with 
the most marked distinction, as he has described* 

* Lettere, vol. iii. 37. 
H 5 


in a letter to his friend, Signer Montese : " I am 
almost out of my senses," says he, " so delighted 
have I been with seeing and hearing him ; nor do I 
think it possible for any one who has not seen and 
heard him to imagine the so unimaginable sense 
of that humane familiarity, of that pious grace, by 
virtue of which he subjects the power of fortune 
to the will of that intrepid soul of valour, which 
continually fires his breast with some Christian re- 
solution. Truly ought I to regard as correct that 
which Francesco Maria, of eternal memory, was 
accustomed to say to me with the skilfulness of his 
speech, wonderful because unpremeditated ; when 
I regarded him above human form and likeness, 
and declared the injury which had been done 
him by unskilful sculptors, he said, * I am by 
nature not handsome, and am, therefore, obliged 
to those who represent me with something al- 
most brutish in my appearance ; since it thence 
happens that when I am seen by persons, I seem 
much less repulsive than they had expected to 
find me.' .... I alluded to a picture of his late 
wife, Isabella, now the servant of God, which 
Busseto gave to Titian, and he immediately made 
several inquiries, with great solicitude, respecting 
that divine painter, saying, that the picture was 


very like truth, although done slightly : and, pur- 
suing the mention of his angelic wife, he swore to 
me, that he had only found comfort at her death 
from the perusal of my letter; and this he said 
with his eyes overflowing with tears, so deeply 
fixed in his heart was the remembrance of his con- 
sort. I replied, that I could no,t think my letters 
were read by him who held in his hand the scep- 
tre of the world. He answered, that all the nobles 
of Spain had copies of what I had written in the 
retreat from Algiers." 

On the accession of Julius III. to the Papacy, 
Aretino again determined to seek his fortune 
among the Princes of the Church. To this end 
he composed some sacred poems and paraphrases 
of Psalms, and also wrote to his Holiness, con- 
gratulating him on his promotion, and eulogizing 
his various virtues: besides which, he composed 
a sonnet on the same subject, and considered him- 
self as having done sufficient altogether to merit 
being rewarded by a rich benefice. The Pontiff, 
indeed, expressed himself highly gratified by the 
demonstration of his attachment ; and Baldovino 
del Monte, the friend of Aretino, and a relative of 
Julius, obtained for him the gift of a thousand 
crowns of gold, and a bull, creating him a Cavalier 


of the order of Saint Peter, a distinction, it seems, 
much more honourable than profitable. These 
grants were by no means sufficient to satisfy Are- 
tino's wishes ; but he received them with pleasure 
and gratitude, as indications that he should shortly 
obtain other and more important ones : he even 
expected to be made a Cardinal, and scarcely any 
object was too great, or placed too high, to pre- 
vent him from grasping at it. To aid him also in 
his schemes of ambition, the Duke of Urbino invited 
him about this time to accompany him to Rome, 
and as nothing could be better adapted to his 
wishes than to appear before the Pontiff as a friend 
of the Prince to whom was committed the com- 
mand of the Papal troops, the invitation was gladly 
accepted, and Aretino prepared for his departure. 
It is amusing to find him saying to a friend, that it 
was expected his presence at Rome would make 
another jubilee, so great he thought would be the 
concourse of people desirous of seeing his person. 
The reception given him by the Pope was equal 
to his warmest expectation ; but it was otherwise 
with regard to rewards and pensions. Julius em- 
braced him, and kissed his forehead, "but his 
hands," says Aretino, " remained empty:" and, 
after paying court for some months, without see- 


ing any reason to hope that his farther stay would 
be better rewarded, he returned dissatisfied to 
Venice, where it is supposed he remained without 
ever again changing his residence. 

The disappointment he felt at what he esteemed 
the unpardonable neglect of the Pontiff, greatly 
enraged him, and he told a friend that, unless he 
found things different, " he would put his pen into 
the whole great legendary of the saints ;" adding, 
" and, as soon as I have composed my book, I 
swear to you, that I will dedicate it to Sultan 
Soliman." It may not be uninteresting to the 
reader to see the sonnet on which he lay a great 
part of his claim to the regard of Julius : 

Ecco pur che in piii pro nostro ha Dio converse 

In Giulio Terzo il gran Giulio Secondo, 
E siccome quel fur stupor del mondo 

Miracol questo. fia dell' universo. 
Egli e di grazie omnipotent! asperso, 

E di virtuti angeliche fecondo ; 
Nel senno, e nel valor tanto profondo, 

Che la fama il decanta in simil verso. 
Forza d' armi, di leggi, e di eloquenza, 

Non usera il Pastor, bench sia tale 
In natura, in arbitrio, ed in potenza ; 

Ma sederii sopra il suo tribunale 
La Giustizia, la Pace, e la Clemenza, 
Si che giubili il Ben, languisca il Male. 


Lo ! the great Second Julius, for our bliss, 
Now as the Third great Julius is known 
That for the wonder of the world, but this 
The miracle of the universe we own ! 
Graces omnipotent his form surround, 
Bright virtues, too, angelical and rare 
In sense and noble valour so profound, 
That even his fame his graces seem to share. 
Though such he be in nature, state, and might, 
The force of arms that Pastor will not use, 
Nor laws, nor eloquence, but rather choose 
To place on his tribunal holy right, 
And peace, and mercy, whence we soon shall see 
Evil decay, and good keep jubilee ! 

It is greatly doubted whether he really received, 
as he subsequently boasted, the offer of a Cardi- 
nal's hat : but the extraordinary marks of respect 
which he obtained from so many princes render 
it not improbable that the Pontiff was willing, by 
any means in his power, to retain him in his ser- 
vice, and the promise of promotion to the purple 
was an expedient used in many cases besides 
that of Aretino. He was, however, pressed by no 
necessity to court so uncertain a patron as Julius ; 
the Emperor and the rest of his princely acquaint- 
ances having supplied him with an income suffi- 
cient to support not only the ordinary expenses of 


his establishment, but to live in a style of courtly 
magnificence. His table was always furnished 
with the rarest and most costly viands ; the wines 
he drank were superior in excellence to those 
found in almost any other house ; and he dressed 
in vestments so rich and fashionable, that he was 
said to have the noblest and most graceful appear- 
ance of any old man in Italy. The sums he spent 
by this expensive manner of living, afford the 
strongest proof that could be given of the influence 
which he possessed over the minds of the great. 
In ten years, that is from 1527 to 1537, his living 
cost him no less than ten thousand scudi, and this, 
without reckoning, he observes, the sums he paid 
for the silks and the cloth of gold he purchased for 
his dress. Nor were his expenses confined to the 
gratification of his own wants. His liberality to 
those who needed it seems to have been as free 
as that which he desired to see exercised towards 
himself by the great men whom he flattered in his 
epistles and dedications. Besides keeping a table 
at all tinies prepared for the hospitable entertain- 
ment of his friends, his house was the general re- 
sort of all the disappointed and unfortunate men of 
the city. " Every one runs to me," says he, in a 
letter to a friend, " as if I had a royal treasure at 


my command. If a poor woman is in her labour, 
my house pays for it if any one is thrown into 
prison, I must provide for him sick soldiers, un- 
fortunate pilgrims, wandering cavaliers everybody 
comes to me, and every one who happens to be 
ill sends to my apothecary for physic, which I 
accordingly have to pay for." 

But he had also calls upon his purse of a different 
kind. His illicit connections had brought upon 
him the care of a family; and, in the decline of 
life, he found himself obliged to provide for the 
support and establishment of three daughters : of 
these, the eldest married a gentleman named 
Perina Riccia, and Aretino employed his interest 
with his friends so well on the occasion, that they 
supplied him, by their benefactions, with the mar- 
riage portion. The Duke of Florence gave three 
hundred scudi towards it, and the Cardinal of 
Ravenna, who had behaved so liberally at the 
marriage of his sister, brought him two hundred, 
a part of a larger benefaction promised by the 
Emperor ; others contributed smaller sums, and 
altogether the daughter of the satirist was as richly 
dowered as if her father had been a merchant 
instead of a man living solely by his wit. The 
marriage took place in 1659, and the following 


year the bride and her husband were invited by 
the Duke and Duchess of Urbino to visit them at 
their palace; but quarrels shortly after occurred 
which destroyed the hopes Aretino had indulged 
of seeing his daughter happy ; and he had the mor- 
tification to find himself involved in disputes which 
ended in her separation from her husband. His 
favourite child, Adria, died in her youth ; but so 
strong was his affection for her, that he had a 
medal cast to preserve her memory, and never 
ceased to speak of her with deep emotion. 

In speaking of the affection he bore his children, 
we are also reminded of the warm attachment 
he uniformly manifested towards his intimate ac- 
quaintances : his fondness for the pleasures of the 
table not being in the smallest degree tinctured 
with the illiberality which sometimes affects men 
in his circumstances. The gratification he derived 
from delicious wines and viands, was always en- 
joyed at his own expense, as he never left home 
to dine with any one, while it was his greatest 
delight to get together such men as Titian and 
other celebrated artists and literary men to spend 
the evening in partaking of his dainties. Towards 
Titian he exercised his friendly feelings in a more 
substantial manner, introducing the great artist to 


the Emperor, and aiding his fame in a most im- 
portant degree, by the publicity he gave his works 
through frequent allusion to them in his letters and 
conversation. There is little doubt but that his sin- 
cere regard for him as a man induced him thus to 
promote his interests ; but he had great taste for 
works of art, and Titian was a painter with whose 
works few persons could become acquainted with- 
out venerating the artist. One of the most inte- 
resting of Aretino's letters is that addressed to the 
painter to thank him for a copy of his celebrated 
Jesus, the original of which was sent to the Em- 
peror. " I have received this morning, that of the 
Nativity," says Aretino, " a copy of that true and 
living Jesus you gave the Emperor, and which was 
the most precious gift that ever monarch received 
from his most devoted subject. The crown of 
thorns which transfixes Christ, is indeed of thorns, 
and the blood which is seen flowing from the 
wounds, is indeed blood ; in the same way, no 
scourge could make the flesh seem more inflamed 
or livid than your divine pencil has done on all the 
heavenly members of the sacred image. The grief 
which appears impressed on the figure of Jesus, 
moves to repentance whoever beholds it with a 
Christian feeling ; the sight of his arms cut with the 


cords by which his hands are bound, must teach 
humility to whoever contemplates the position of 
his right hand so expressive of the deepest sorrow ; 
nor dares any who sees the pacific grace demon- 
strated in that form, retain the slightest feeling of 
hate or rancour in his bosom. The place where 
I sleep, therefore, has no longer the appearance of 
a noble, earthly chamber, but seems to be a sacred 
temple of God, so that I am about to convert 
pleasure into prayer, and licentiousness into purity, 
thanking you greatly for this specimen of your art." 
Dated Venice, January 1548. 

His intimate acquaintance with Titian brought 
him on one occasion into a ludicrously perilous 
situation. Having taken part with his friend 
against Tintoret, he ventured to satirize the latter 
with more freedom than was consistent either with 
justice or safety ; the artist, however, said nothing, 
but invited him to sit for his portrait, which he 
expressed himself anxious to paint. Aretino went 
accordingly without any suspicion to his house, but 
after sitting some time, Tintoret desired him to let 
him see his height, and then began to measure 
him, the terrified Aretino exclaiming, " Jacopo, what 
are you doing ?" " Nothing particular," he said ; 
" but I see you measure two pistols and a half 


long." These mysterious words led to an apology, 
and they were thenceforward good friends. 

It was not on all occasions that he escaped so 
well. His love of ridicule, and the bitterness with 
which he resented neglect or injury, put him se- 
veral times in danger of assassination, and he was 
more than once seriously wounded ; this rendered 
him not a little nervous whenever he had offended 
any one whose arm there was reason to dread, and 
he would at such times confine himself to his 
house, which he strongly barricadoed, and not stir 
out till his enemy had either left the city or was 
pacified. Pietro Strozzi, a celebrated captain, kept 
him for some time in this condition ; but an Eng- 
lish ambassador, whom he had accused of re- 
serving some of the money sent him by Henry 
VIII., set six or seven armed men to watch him, 
who severely wounded him in the arm, and left 
him for dead. 

It was not, however, by the dagger of the 
assassin that Aretino was to lose his life, and he 
continued to pursue his favourite occupations of 
writing satires or laudatory epistles, of admiring 
paintings, playing on the harpsichord, or some 
similar instrument, and conversing with his friends 
over the elegant banquets he prepared for them, as 


if he had had as few enemies as less conspicuous 
characters. The exact manner in which his career 
terminated, has not been decided by his biogra- 
phers ; by some it is said, and their opinion gained 
general credit for many years, that his death was 
marked with as great a degree of infamy as that 
which stained the worst periods of his life. Ac- 
cording to these accounts, some friend had come to 
pay him a visit, and chose, as the most amusing 
subject for conversation, the flagitious conduct of his 
host's sisters, whose character, it has been already 
observed, was little calculated to increase his re- 
spectability. Aretino, so far from blushing at the 
details, was thrown into a most violent fit of laugh- 
ter, and leaning back in his chair, the feet flew from 
under him, when falling on his head, his skull was 
fractured, and he almost instantly expired. 

The whole of this tale, however, is said to have 
been fabricated,* and there is something so ap- 
pallingly atrocious in the idea it would give us of 
Aretino's character, that for the credit of humanity 
we should wish to discredit it, unless it rested on 
the most substantial evidence. There also seems 
to be good reasons for doubting it of another kind 
besides those resulting from the absence of suf- 

* Mazzuchelli. 


ficient testimony to the fact. From Aretino's con- 
duct towards his daughters ; from a certain degree 
of pride which appeared in his character ; from his 
general professions of being a friend to virtue, and 
the acquaintance he enjoyed with so many eminent 
individuals, both in Venice and elsewhere, it can 
scarcely be considered credible that he would have 
regarded the infamy of his family as a subject of 
ridicule, or that he would not have felt too much 
fear at its becoming publicly known, to prevent 
him from treating it with levity. Guilty, more- 
over, as he was of many and gross vices, there is 
nothing sufficiently bad in the sentiments which he 
uttered in his own person when writing to his ac- 
quaintances, to lead us to suppose that his nature 
was so completely corrupt, or his heart so entirely 
blackened by vice, as to make the licentious aban- 
donment of his sisters a proper object to excite 
the mirth of a dinner-table. 

But if Aretino was not guilty of an offence 
against human nature so dark as that just mentioned, 
he still remains accused of one but a few degrees 
removed from it, and even fully as bad, did not 
our knowledge of his opinions furnish us with 
something like an apology in his favour. After 
having, it is said, lain ill some time, he was given 


over by his physicians, and advised to prepare for 
death ; submitting himself accordingly to the usual 
ceremonies of the church, he received the sacra- 
ment, and, lastly, extreme unction; but he was 
no sooner anointed with the holy oil, than he ex- 

" Gardatemi da topi or che son unto." 

Something worse than levity there is reason to fear 
was implied in these sarcasms on the rites of the 
Roman Church, and to whatever communion we 
may belong, the mind of every person of right 
feeling shrinks with aversion from one who could 
insult an object or a custom which those about him 
were regarding as worthy of veneration. It is one 
of the first obligations of civil society that each of 
its members respect the decision of the community 
at large, and if this be allowed to hold good in 
things of mere outward convenience, it surely 
ought to apply to the opinions which men consider 
of the highest importance to their future as well 
as present happiness, and which they continue to 
cherish, while their ideas on every other subject, 
perhaps, are continually varying. Such persons 
as Aretino, professing to be above the rest of 
mankind by superiority of discernment, forget that 


knowledge confers upon them the power of enlight- 
ening, not the right of exercising a species of intel- 
lectual tyranny for their own amusement. Ridicule 
and sarcasm are only lawful when levied against 
voluntary error, and where the wounds they inflict 
may serve the double purpose of punishing and cor- 
recting folly. In religious matters, therefore, these 
weapons can rarely be used with safety or justice. 
So long as a large number of persons regard cer- 
tain opinions, or rites, as necessary and venerable, 
truth and reason only afford the proper means 
for attack, because it is on these the dogmas, how- 
ever erroneous, are supposed to be founded, and 
to attack a man with ridicule because he does that 
which he has thought it right to do from infancy, 
is scarcely less unjust than it would be to burn 
him for speaking truth. 

But however reprehensible Aretino was for the 
mode he employed to express his disregard of the 
rites of the Church, he scarcely merits the fiery 
censures which were heaped upon him by his con- 
temporaries. It should be remembered that he 
had from earliest youth manifested a strong dis- 
like to what he regarded as the superstitions of 
his age, and of the Church to which he outwardly 
belonged ; that he had on many occasions expressed 


himself to this purpose, never concealing his sen- 
timents except when playing the courtier, and 
then only so slightly, that his heretical opinions 
might be clearly discerned under the thin veil of 
his flattery. The sarcasm, therefore, which he 
uttered, was only one of a thousand which he had 
been accustomed to scatter in sport among his 
friends ; it was not the cold and calculated insult 
of the atheist, but the wanton and petulant vanity 
of the satirist ; and if he had not given his enemies 
many more important and juster reasons for black- 
ening his memory, his witticisms would have me- 
rited no greater reprehension than what is due 
to levity when usurping the place of reflection and 

In estimating the literary character of Aretino, 
it is difficult to determine in what that remark- 
able excellence consisted which obtained him the 
friendship of so many distinguished characters. 
His works in the present age are rarely opened, 
and contain little or nothing to attract attention 
either in style or matter. The portion most in- 
teresting is that which consists of his numerous 
epistles, in which ate found many passages strik- 
ingly illustrative of the period when they were 
written, and affording an excellent mirror of the 



author's character and pursuits. But amusing and 
not unuseful as these epistles are to the inquisi- 
tive scholar, they would be found unreadable to 
persons in general, and with these, his satires, his 
plays, his sacred dramas and other religious poems, 
all at our hands, we shall still be left to wonder 
at the success with which he pursued the profes- 
sion of an author. But it must not be forgotten 
that though dull to us in the present day, a large 
proportion of both the epistles and poems made 
allusions to persons and events which, when they 
were written, entirely occupied men's attention ; 
and every species of composition which can be 
made the vehicle of direct compliment or pungent 
satire is sure to succeed if managed with tolerable 
adroitness. All persons can understand praise 
and censure, even when conveyed in the shape 
of allegories or half concealed under an abun- 
dance of poetical ornament. Aretino, therefore, 
was sure not to want readers, and as success con- 
tinued to increase his confidence, he spoke with 
greater plainness or violence. Had he rested his 
chance of reputation on any other kind of litera- 
ture but that which makes the praise or censure 
of individuals its theme, he would, it is likely, have 
remained almost unknown, or possessed an inferior 


station among the most indifferent writers of his 
country ; but a satirist has all the ill-natured feel- 
ings of men on his side, and if he have the art to 
make his readers suppose that it is not their own 
characters but those of their neighbours to whom his 
sarcasms refer, though he may do little good, and 
there may be more abuse than genuine wit in his 
poems, he will seldom fail of popularity or reward. 
It is with writers of this kind as with an army, it 
is not so much their actual strength as the art 
with which they dispose their forces which deter- 
mines their success ; and in this respect Aretino 
was probably superior to any satirist that ever 
wielded the pen. He flattered the great, but 
always kept them in awe of his lash should they 
chance to offend him; he thus effected as much 
by servility as he did by satire, the former giving 
greater poignancy to the latter, and the latter 
more value to the former, as his patrons saw the 
contrast between his behaviour to them and to 
his enemies. To those who rewarded his attach- 
ment by rich presents and pensions he expressed 
himself a most devoted lover of truth, and as will- 
ing to sacrifice any thing in its support ; a declara- 
tion of this kind was the general accompaniment of 
an epistle filled with the grossest flattery, and it 
i 2 


is scarcely credible that the noble personages to 
whom he addressed himself should have been 
wholly blind to his art ; but besides the professions 
he made of his great love of truth, they found 
him speaking to others in a manner which they 
imagined could be only prompted by this virtuous 
principle, and thus viewing in connexion his com- 
pliments to them and his satires upon others, they 
considered the one as really elicited by their me- 
rits, and the other as the indignant voice of truth, 
their satisfaction at the conduct of the writer to- 
wards themselves being sufficient to make them 
find both power and skill in his sarcasms. 

If this may account in some measure for the 
applause he elicited from the nobles, it is much 
easier to explain the phenomenon of his success 
with the people at large. A writer of the most 
moderate talents may at any time obtain the ad- 
miration of the vulgar by strongly infusing his 
compositions with abuse of their superiors ; this 
has been observed from time immemorial, and will 
continue to be the case till human nature has 
undergone a greater change than it has ever yet 
experienced. Aretino was, however, well qualified 
to write in a manner calculated to attract the 
attention of the people. He had passed his youth 


among persons little refined by education, and was 
unincumbered by heavy scholastic erudition he 
had learnt how to engage their notice by the fan- 
tastic tricks and expressions which they best com- 
prehend he was indifferent as to the laws of good 
taste or delicacy, and possessed courage sufficient 
to make himself appear their leader against those 
they disliked. Had he been much less ingenious 
than he actually was, these qualifications would 
have enabled him to make his way as a popular 
satirist, it being a remarkable fact that thousands 
of persons, whom it would be difficult to amuse by 
any other species of writing, if not imbued with 
genuine humour, will listen with great zest to the 
most stupid ballad that was ever penned if it pur- 
pose to be a satire on some known and unpopular 

Nor was Aretino altogether unassisted in his 
career by that incomparable vanity which formed 
so distinguishing a feature of his character. The 
confidence he felt in his own powers was un- 
bounded, and in this he was confirmed by the 
facility with which he composed the most cele- 
brated of his works. Thus he says that he was 
accustomed in the early part of his career to write 
forty stanzas in a morning that the comedy of 


" Marescalco " was composed in ten mornings, and 
that of "Filocopo"in the same time that the 
"Ippocrito" and " Talanta" were written in less 
time than it would take to copy them, and were 
composed in the intervals of the night which he 
stole from sleep. Two hours a day, it is also farther 
affirmed, were all that he ever gave to study or 
writing; and that when he composed, the only 
assistance he required was from pens, ink, and 
paper, on which last particular, it is shrewdly ob- 
served by his biographer, Mazzuchelli, that the 
histories which he wrote must necessarily have 
been rather deficient in correctness and authority. 
But how strongly he was possessed with the idea 
of his own excellence is proved still more from the 
means he made use of to spread his name over 
Italy and other parts of the world. Besides having 
his portrait taken several times, he ordered three 
medals to be struck bearing his likeness and in- 
scribed with his name at length, " The divine Are- 
tino." His letters to his friends are full of the 
same indications of his vanity, and gross as may 
be the praise he bestowed on his patrons, he never 
flattered any person more extravagantly than he 
did himself. It was his favourite boast that he 


was the first Italian author who had ever published 
his epistolary correspondence, and he had formed 
the very highest opinion of the excellence of his 
letters. Bernardo Tasso, however, chanced to say 
that there was no Italian writer of letters worthy 
of imitation ; and so enraged was Aretino, when he 
discovered that Bernardo had thus expressed him- 
self, that he immediately wrote to him, express- 
ing both his anger and contempt at what he consi- 
dered an attack on his reputation. " What a god," 
exclaims he, " would you consider yourself if you 
had published your volume as many years before 
me as I have before you." And towards the con- 
clusion he says, that without either riding post, 
serving courts, or even moving a step, he had made 
dukes, princes, and sovereigns tributary to virtue ; 
that his fame was spread throughout all the 
world, and that they prized his portrait and held 
his name in esteem in the distant countries of 
India and Persia. " Wherefore," continues he, 
" I exhort you to counsel and not to fury ; but 
since anger is more powerful in your breast than 
reason, I give you the choice of both arms and 
ground ;" the nature of which challenge .is ex- 
plained in a former part of the letter, where he 


tells Tasso that he was only fit to sing love-songs, 
and calls him to a trial of skill that all the world 
may see who is superior.* 

He commonly styled himself the divine Aretino, 
and ornamented the frontispiece of his books with 
the inscription " Per divina gracia homo libero," or 
" Ecco II Flagello de' Principi," while the estima- 
tion in which he asserted his portraits were held 
all over the world induced him to have medals 
struck with his likeness, which he sent as a mark 
of high honour to some of the greatest men of 
Europe. His portrait he gave to the King of 
France, and seems to have considered it a present 
worthy of a king ; as, besides observing that people 
placed his likeness in their drawing-rooms and in 
every part of their houses, ornamenting even their 
looking-glasses and other articles of furniture with 
it, he says, that it was as famous as those of Alex- 
ander the Great, of Caesar, and of Scipio. Of the 
value of his praise he had no less an opinion, and 
he observed that if he had praised Christ as much 
as he had the Emperor, he should have had more 
treasures in heaven than he ever had debts on 
earth, asserting at the same time that he was never 
either proud, ungrateful, or ambitious. 

* Leltere, vol. v. p. 187. 


It is not, however, to be supposed, that he was 
only supported in his high opinion of himself by his 
own vanity. Besides the attentions he received 
from the princes who patronized him, and which 
would have had a similar effect on most men of or- 
dinary mind, he was flattered by his acquaintances 
in the same manner as he complimented King 
Henry, and the Emperor. He was not only termed 
the Divine, but the Censor of the World, the Oracle 
of Truth, and even the fifth Evangelist; more than 
one preacher, it is said, not deeming it improper to 
allude to his writings from the pulpit. To account 
in some measure for the latter circumstance, it 
must be remembered that he wrote the Life of 
the Virgin Mary, of St. Catherine, and our Lord, 
as well as some other religious works ; but by what- 
ever means he acquired it, the reputation he enjoyed 
is not the less extraordinary, considering that he 
possessed neither the advantages derivable from 
education, nor those high qualities of genius which 
command attention. Nor was it merely as a writer 
that he obtained respect; his judgment was con- 
sidered so excellent, that authors were accustomed 
to purchase his opinion on their compositions, 
which they sent to him for that purpose before pub- 
lishing them. By a curious little note found among 
i 5 


his epistles, we learn that he was not very cour- 
teous in his treatment of these applicants if they 
neglected to fee him in a liberal manner. " If you 
knew," says he in the letter alluded to, " as well 
how to give, as you do how to versify, Alexander 
and Caesar might go to bed ; attend then to your 
verses, since liberality is not your art !"* 

Of the actual merit of Aretino as a writer, there 
is scarcely but one opinion. The reputation he en- 
joyed while living, may be accounted for as above, 
and he is far from being the only instance in which 
little genuine talent with a great deal of assurance, 
and cunning in the employment of that little, has 
obtained for a writer considerable temporary cele- 
brity. As a poet, he seems never to have aimed 
at any elevation of the imagination, and seldom 
manifests any fervour of feeling or sentiment. His 
prose works are similarly cold, but both in these 
and his poems there is a certain degree of wit, and 
ingenuity of expression, with occasional gleams of 
original thought, that might be sufficient to excite 
the admiration of persons either afraid of his abuse, 
or gratified by his praise. His style, however, in 
general, is rendered both unreadable and incapable 
of translation, by constant transpositions, and the 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 14&. 


obscurity of many of the ideas. " It has neither 
elegance nor grace," says Tiraboschi, " and he 
seems to have been the first to employ those ridi- 
culous hyperboles and strange metaphors, which 
were in such frequent use in the following age." 
The learned author then cites as an illustration, 
what Aretino says of his Capitoli in one of his 
letters, " * In those which have the motion of the 
sun the lines of the viscera are rounded, the mus- 
cles of the intentions are raised, and the profiles of 
the intrinsical affections distended.' I have never," 
continues the historian, " seen books so silly and 
useless as those of this impostor." The vileness of 
Aretino's mind was equal to his profound ignorance, 
his private interest and gain being the evident ob- 
ject of all he wrote. Nor were critics wanting 
during his life-time, who, being neither deceived 
by his pretensions, nor frightened by his threats, 
openly dared to express their contempt of his wri- 
tings. Among his enemies, he numbered some of 
the most famous men of the age ; II Doni and 
Berni were the foremost, and attacked him in his 
own style with a vengeful violence of language that 
the nerves of a modern reader can scarcely bear. 
Niccolo Franco, his former friend, the poet Albi- 
cante, Girolamo Muzio, Gabriello Faerno, were not 


less his enemies, and the opinions expressed by 
these writers, with the rancour of personal hatred, 
have been universally adopted by their successors 
in Italy and elsewhere. 

The works of Aretino are very numerous ; but 
as has been seen, it is to the name he obtained 
among his contemporaries, and not to the merit of 
his writings he owes a place among his worthier 
and more distinguished countrymen. His principal 
prose compositions are his Letters in six volumes ; 
his Comedies, the Lives of the Virgin Mary, St. 
Catherine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and our Saviour ; 
three books on the Humanity of Christ, a treatise 
entitled II Genesi, with the Vision of Noah, and a 
Paraphrase of the seven Penitential Psalms. His 
poems consist of laudatory verses dedicated to 
various great men ; the Strambotti alia Villanesca ; 
the Horaoio, a dramatic poem ; the first two 
cantos of the Orlandino, written as a burlesque on 
Ariosto, Pulci, and other romancers ; and miscel- 
laneous pieces and satires. 

Hifc of JSernar&o 

THE name of Tasso, now only known by the 
splendour of its literary glory, had been ennobled 
for centuries before the birth of Bernardo, by the 
actions of his illustrious ancestors. It is, however, 
creditable to human nature to find how little 
honours of any other kind are regarded, when 
exposed to comparison with those which belong to 
intellectual eminence. The forefathers of Bernar- 
do, and the more celebrated Torquato, were men 
of high renown in their day, and merited the dis- 
tinction they received ; but scarcely any one, ex- 
cept the biographer or antiquary, would ever think 
of inquiring into their history, were it not for their 


connection with the admirable poets who have im- 
mortalized the name. Till the accurate investi- 
gations of Serassi proved to the contrary, it was 
commonly believed that the family of the Tassi 
was derived from that of the Torriani, Lords of 
Milan : but the earliest accounts to be depended 
upon, represent them as established at Almenno, 
about five miles from Bergamo, and soon after as 
Lords of Cornello, a mountainous district in the 
neighbourhood. In 1290, Omodeo de' Tassi invent- 
ed the system of regular posts, and his descendants 
becoming the general superintendents of the offices 
in Flanders, Spain, and Germany, they rose to the 
highest dignities, and, in the latter country, became 
sovereign Princes. 

Bernardo was born on the llth of November 
1493, at Bergamo.* The latter point, however, has 
been disputed, some of his biographers contending 
that he first saw the light at Venice ; but it is 
generally allowed, that no sufficient proofs can be 
advanced to support this opinion, and Bergamo is, 
therefore, left in the peaceable enjoyment of its 
honour as his birth-place. His parents were Ga- 
briele, son of Giovanni, and Caterina de' Tassi del 
Cornello, descended from two branches of the same 

* Serassi. t Seghezzi. 


distinguished family. The first instructor to whom 
his education was intrusted was Gio. Batista Pio, 
of Bologna, under whose care he manifested a sin- 
gular aptitude for learning, and inspired his parents 
with sanguine hopes of his future eminence ; but, 
while still a child, both his father and mother were 
taken off by a premature death, and he was left 
with a sister, still younger than himself, to the care 
of his maternal uncle, Luigi Tasso, Bishop of Re- 
canati. The property which he inherited from his 
father was not sufficient to support and educate 
him ; but Luigi placed him in an academy, and his 
little sister in a monastery, paying for their edu- 
cation out of his own purse. The progress which 
the orphans made in their respective studies, suffi- 
ciently rewarded him for his benevolence. Bor- 
delisia became a nun, and took the name of Afra, 
distinguishing herself by so sweet and amiable a 
conduct, that her memory was revered long after 
her death by the sisters of Santa Grata. Bernardo 
applied himself to the classics, and, in a few years, 
was remarkable for his extensive acquaintance with 
the best authors of Greece and Rome. He also 
composed poems in Italian, which attracted still 
greater attention : and, in a villa belonging to his 
uncle at Redona, about a mile from Bergamo, he 


was accustomed thus to refresh himself from se- 
verer studies, while his verses were considered 
equal to those of Bembo, and soon obtained him 
the praise of all Italy. But, during one of his visits 
to this villa, the Bishop, who had shortly before 
arrived there, was cruelly murdered, and the house 
stripped of its most valuable effects by some of the 

The death of his uncle, whom he loved as a 
parent, again left Bernardo comparatively desti- 
tute. He had, however, it seems, sufficient pro- 
perty to enable him to travel and spend a life of 
leisure. Bidding adieu, therefore, to Bergamo, he 
set out on his wanderings, and, in the early part 
of them, became acquainted with Ginevra Mala- 
testa, a lady whom he has represented as a para- 
gon of beauty and virtue. His passion for this 
lady was characteristic of his ardent and poetical 
temperament; and he dedicated to her many of 
the best efforts of his muse : but, when she be- 
came the wife of a gentleman of the Obizzi family, 
he bade her a formal farewell in a sonnet, which 
is greatly admired for its pathos and delicacy, and 
was so celebrated at the time it was written, that 
not a lord or lady, it is said, was to be found in 
Italy who could not repeat it. 


Not long after this event, he grew weary of his 
manner of living, and, becoming desirous of better- 
ing his fortune, attached himself to the Count 
Guido Rangone, General of the Pontifical forces. 
In the capacity of Secretary to this nobleman, Ber- 
nardo was witness to the desperate struggles which 
took place between Clement VII. and the Empe- 
ror, and was deputed by Guido to carry on some 
of the most important of his negotiations for the 
Pope and the allies. After having shown consi- 
derable talent in the conduct of these affairs, he left 
the service of Guido at the termination of the war, 
and proceeded to Ferrara, where he received from 
the Duchess many tokens of respect, and was ap- 
pointed her Secretary. He, however, remained 
only a short time in her employ, and removed to 
Padua, where he was unwillingly involved in the 
disputes between Pietro Bembo and Broccardo : 
this was, probably, the cause of his leaving that 
city for Venice, whither he repaired after making 
friends with Bembo, and explaining in a sonnet 
the supposed allusions which had been received by 
the Cardinal as an intended insult on his person. 
At Venice he found many of his early acquaint- 
ances, and, having collected the various pieces 
of poetry he had composed, he published them in 


the year 1531, dedicating them to Ginevra Ma- 

This volume of poems added greatly to the re- 
putation he had already acquired, and attracted 
the attention of Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of 
Salerno, himself a poet of considerable ability. 
Delighted with the genius displayed in the verses 
now published, and having heard of the author's 
talent for business, he sent him a pressing in- 
vitation to Salerno, offering, at the same time, 
to make him his Secretary. Bernardo accept- 
ed the offer, and, quickly obtaining the entire 
confidence of the Prince, was rewarded for his 
services by the grant of numerous and valuable 
offices. Thus increasing in wealth, he took a splen- 
did house, and lived in a style of costly magnifi- 
cence. His public employments, however, had not 
the effect of drawing him from his attachment to 
poetry: and, in the year 1534, he re-published 
his former collection, with the addition of several 
new pieces, dedicating the work in general to the 
Prince, but the second portion of it to his consort, 
Isabella Villamarina. Soon after this, he accom- 
panied his patron to Africa, on occasion of the 
expedition of Charles V. against Tunis. At his 

* Seghezzi. Serassi. 


return, he brought with him the curious arabesque 
vase, which is mentioned in two of Torquato's son- 
nets, and several poems composed during his ab- 
sence, and which he published in 1537, under the 
title of the " Terzo Libro degli Amori." About 
two years after he married Porzia de' Rossi, 
daughter of Giacomo di Pistoia and Lucretia de' 
Gambacozti, formerly Lords of Pisa, and subse- 
quently Marquesses of Celenza, By this union, 
therefore, he became connected with some of the 
greatest personages in Italy, besides which his wife 
brought him a considerable fortune, and, possessing 
an agreeable person and amiable disposition, she 
enjoyed his uninterrupted affection till death sepa- 
rated them. Their first child, Cornelia, was re- 
markable, in her infancy, for wit and intelligence, 
and, to secure her from the dangers of the court, 
was, at an early age, placed in a convent. Their 
next was named Torquato, but he died in his in- 
fancy, leaving the name for his illustrious brother, 
who was born soon after Bernardo had set out 
with the Prince in 1544 to join the forces of the 
Emperor, under his general the Marquess del Vasto. 
A short time previous to this expedition, he had 
commenced his poem of " Amadigi." The Prince, 
with a liberality which did him the greatest honour, 


knowing Bernardo's love of study, made few calls 
upon his attention, except on occasions of extra- 
ordinary necessity. Though he himself resided 
at Naples, and Bernardo received a stipend as his 
secretary, he had permitted him to live at Sorrento, 
in a most delicious retirement, and wholly occupy 
himself with the composition of poetry. The 
period which he spent in this uninterrupted en- 
joyment of literature, was the happiest of his life, 
and the design of the Amadigi was owing to the 
hope he had conceived of passing many years in 
these tranquil occupations. He at first determined, 
it is said, to write this poem in versi sciolti, con- 
ceiving that the rhyming metres were only fitted 
for light and amatory poetry. To this idea he was 
instigated by his friend Speroni, who had a great 
contempt for rhyme, and regarded it as destroying 
the gravity and elevation which should belong to 
an heroic poem. This opinion, however, was 
soon after controverted by the Prince, arid by 
Don Luigi d'Avila, and others, whom he met in 
Flanders, after the war, and who desiring to see 
Bernardo imitate Ariosto, induced him to change 
his plan. But having at first put his materials 
together in prose, he began to versify them, add- 
ing, as he proceeded, such ornaments as his fancy 


suggested ; and, as soon as he had finished the first 
canto, he sent it to Speroni, begging him to ex- 
amine it carefully, and submit it to Girolamo Mo- 
lino, Benedetto Varchi, and some other literary 

His expedition with Sanseverino had not inter- 
rupted the progress of the poem. In the midst or 
the alarms of war and the interruptions of busi- 
ness, he continued to add stanza after stanza to 
the Amadigi, composing the greater part of the 
work on horseback : and, on his return home, at 
the conclusion of the war, he set down to complete 
it, seeing no reason to dread any farther inter- 
ruption to his design. He was not suffered long 
to enjoy these hopes. The Viceroy of Naples, 
Don Pedro di Toleda, desirous of keeping the 
people in stricter subjection to the Emperor, pro- 
posed introducing the Inquisition into the pro- 
vince : his intention was no sooner known, than the 
populace expressed their indignation in the most 
open manner, and Don Pedro immediately declared 
the city in a state of insurrection. The senti- 
ments of the Prince of Salerno were sufficiently 
well understood to make the people desirous of in- 
teresting him in their favour ; and they accord- 

* Seghezzi. 


ingly deputed Carlo Brancazio to represent their 
grievances to him, and require his mediation with 
the Emperor, that the obnoxious Viceroy might be 
removed. Sanseverino consulted Bernardo as to 
the measures he ought to pursue, and was advised 
by the poet to indulge the people in their request. 
But this counsel was strongly opposed by Vincen- 
zio Martelli, the major-domo of the Prince, who 
was as much in favour of the Viceroy, as Tasso 
disliked him. The opinion, however, of Bernardo 
was followed, and the Prince set off on his mission, 
but proceeded so slowly that the partizans of Don 
Pedro anticipated him with the Emperor, and he 
only returned to be assailed by assassins, and finall}' 
to find himself suspected by the Emperor, and 
obliged, for safety, to forsake his dominions, and 
join the King of France. 

Bernardo was in Rome when he heard that the 
territory of Sanseverino was confiscated, and the 
Prince himself declared a rebel. For some time, 
it appears, he was uncertain in what manner to 
proceed, and vacillated between returning to his 
home, and following the fortunes of his fallen mas- 
ter. He at length resolved upon the latter, and 
was accordingly deprived of all his possessions, 
and the w r hole of the property he had collected in 


his elegant residence near Salerno. It is doubted 
by one of his biographers whether he was induced 
to take this step solely from affection for Sanseve- 
rino. " Those who are willing to give full credence 
to the words of Tasso," says Seghezzi, te ought with- 
out doubt to ascribe this resolution to an abun- 
dant gratitude, and to his special love for his mas- 
ter, by whom he was so greatly benefited ; but I, 
reflecting on the origin of things, am of opinion 
that he was induced to follow Sanseverino not from 
simple affection, but from the hope of seeing that 
Prince, already illustrious in reputation, received 
and rewarded by Henry with regal munificence, and 
placed in greater honour on account of the treat- 
ment he had received from the Emperor, who after 
having received so many and such important ser- 
vices at his hands, had shown him such little re- 
gard; and he was sure that if the Prince should 
thus obtain the favour of the King of France, his 
incomparable fidelity would meet with a reward 
equivalent to what he had lost by this conduct. 
Besides which, he had long nourished a deep- 
seated hatred to the Spaniards, and was in his 

heart a friend of the French All which 

affords strong evidence that the resolution which 
Tasso took to follow the Prince to the Court of 



France, had its origin in the affection he bore the 
French ; his hope of obtaining greater advantages 
by it; and from his conviction that, if he did not 
follow Sanseverino, he should be in constant dan- 
ger of insult from the Viceroy arid the Imperial- 
ists." Whether this cold arid selfish reasoning was 
indeed employed by Bernardo, on the occasion of 
his patron's misfortunes, must remain a matter of 
doubt ; but we may be glad to know that the sup- 
position rests entirely on the fancy of Seghezzi, 
who certainly has shown as little enthusiasm for 
the hero of his story, as was ever done by the 
most indifferent biographer. Giving all due import- 
ance to self-interest in summing up the motives 
of human action, he ought to have remembered 
that many bright instances have occurred in every 
age, of great fidelity and affection ; that patrons 
have not been at all times treated with neglect 
when their fortunes changed; that there were 
many reasons to make Bernardo deeply attached to 
the Prince of Salerno, and that his character was 
sufficiently virtuous and noble to make it more pro- 
bable that gratitude rather than selfishness would 
influence his actions. The fact is, prudence might 
very properly dictate the course he pursued ; but 
it does not follow that because fidelity and caution 


happened in this instance to give the same coun- 
sel, the former would not have been preserved had 
it been otherwise. Messer Antonio Federigo Se- 
ghezzi has indeed neither proved his judgment, nor 
increased our opinion of his good feeling, by, ex- 
pressing such imaginary doubts of Bernardo's ho- 
nesty. Having, however, taken the resolution of 
following Sanseverino, our poet removed his wife 
and daughter to Naples, where he had provided 
them splendid apartments in the palace Gamba- 
costi, in order that Porzia might be near her rela- 
tives, on whom he vainly hoped she might depend 
for comfort in her distress. He then joined the 
Prince at Venice, and after spending a few days 
at Bergamo, was sent to France in September 
1552, where he lost no time in opening his views 
to the King, whom he endeavoured to persuade 
that, by forming a union with Soliman, he might 
attack Naples with certain success, and at once 
humble the power of the Emperor. Henry listened 
with sufficient attention to these proposals to in- 
duce the Prince and Bernardo to hope that they 
should be speedily restored in triumph to their 
country; but to effect the intended plan, it was 
necessary that Sanseverino should proceed to Con- 
stantinople to obtain the concurrence of the Sul- 
K 2 


tan ; and during his absence in the East, Bernardo 
took up his residence at St. Germain's, where he 
amused himself with composing several light pieces 
of poetry, the chief of which were in praise of 
Margaret of Valois. On the return of the Prince, 
their hopes of succour were found to have been 
false. The Sultan was unwilling to engage in the 
project, and Henry on that account still more so. 
Bernardo, therefore, having nothing farther to re- 
tain him near the person of his patron, returned to 
Rome, where he corresponded with him secretly 
on the state of their affairs, and the measures to be 
adopted for their improvement. 

The change which had taken place in his for- 
tune, made no alteration in his desire of literary 
fame, and having added greatly to his miscellaneous 
compositions, he sent his later productions to Lodo- 
vico Dolce at Venice, where he had already pub- 
lished in 1551 two volumes of letters, under the 
care of the same friend. The whole of his former 
poems were reprinted with those now sent for pub- 
lication, and the work appeared in 1555, beautifully 
printed by Gabriel Giolito.* His Amadigi in the 
mean time was gradually increasing under his hand, 
and in the letter which accompanied the poems 



sent to Lodovico for publication, he observes, that 
he was approaching the conclusion. In speaking 
of his situation at this period, and of his compo- 
sitions, he says, " I have delayed, my most gentle 
Lodovico, to send you this fourth book from the 
desire of at least letting you have the copy well 
and correctly written ; but my long and trouble- 
some indisposition, though not dangerous, has hin- 
dered my doing so. Not to delay the fulfilment of 
my wishes, therefore, any longer, I send you them 
neither punctuated, nor remarkably correct ; being 
certain from the affection you bear me, that you will 
not think it too great a fatigue to do that for me 
which I have not been able to do for myself. I give 
you, therefore, authority not only to alter the writing, 
which has* certainly much need of it in many places, 
but the sentences and the words ; the opinion I 
have of your judgment, and the affection you bear 
me, securing me from any danger of suffering by 
this confidence. Print, then, the three books of my 
Amours first, and then this fourth book with the 
dedication to Madame Margherita, .which I hereby 
send you, and in the order in which it is to appear. 
And as there are in the third book of the Rime 
di Diversi Autori, canzoni and sonnets written by 
me, but ascribed to M. Randolfo Porrino, and as I 


think the laws allow a man to take his own coat 
wherever he finds it, if he know it to be his own, 
I have put these same pieces in this book, being 
certain that that excellent man, who would pro- 
bably not have deigned to place my verses in com- 
parison with his, will not be offended at my so 
doing. I moreover beg you to pray M. Gabriello 
to let the copies which he is to send me as marks 
of respect for my friends, be printed on good paper, 
and somewhat larger than the rest, and especially 
the copy which I intend sending to the Court of 
France, and I will pay the expense of the paper." 
Dated Rome, October 20, 1554.* 

But the pleasure he derived from his literary 
occupations, which lightened considerably the 
weight of his misfortunes, was suddenly inter- 
rupted by the intelligence which reached him, in 
the spring of 1556, of the death of his wife. The 
affliction he felt at the loss of this amiable woman, 
who had won his affections by her virtues and the 
tenderness of her disposition, was increased by the 
reproaches he made his conscience for having left 
her exposed to the machinations of designing rela- 
tives. He had scarcely, it seems, proceeded to 
France when attempts were made by her brothers 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 144. 


to deprive her of her fortune. In vain did she 
strive to escape their persecutions and rejoin her 
husband, who sighed for her presence in Rome. 
So skilfully did they pursue their plans that to 
leave the country would, she knew, be the means 
of immediately depriving her children of support. 
All she could do, therefore, was to remove with her 
daughter to the convent of S. Festo, and send Tor- 
quato to Rome. She was still, however, involved 
in distressing law-suits and altercations, which he;r 
health and spirits were ill calculated to support. 
The result was such as might have been expected : 
two-thirds of her dowry were taken from her, a 
drawback of fifteen hundred ducats was made on 
the income previously received, and at the end of 
the suits the unfortunate lady died, if not broken- 
hearted, so oppressed by the various troubles she 
had had to contend with, that her husband attri- 
buted her death almost solely to that cause. 

The circumstances which had thus contributed 
so materially to deprive Bernardo of his affec- 
tionate consort, affected him also in another way. 
His property having been almost entirely dis- 
sipated, all he had left for his support was the 
allowance he received from Sanseverino; but that 
Prince, either from the bad state of his own cir- 


cumstances, or from having less regard for his 
secretary, now that his talents were of little use to 
him, neglected to remit the pension, and Bernardo 
was left in a situation of extreme difficulty. In 
a letter written to the Prince soon after the death 
of his wife, he expresses himself with feelings 
which seem to have partaken both of sorrow and 
anger. His letters and applications, he says, had 
all been left unanswered : " In my last," continues 
he, " I informed you of the death of my unfortu- 
nate wife, with the total ruin of my miserable 
children, who by the loss of their mother are de- 
prived of their inheritance and the only hope and 
support of their lives. Think, my Lord, what 
must be my situation, and whether I do not stand 
in need of consolation and assistance ; yet I must 
confess that your conduct towards me distresses 
me more than all my losses and troubles. One 
satisfaction only remains to me, and it is the clear- 
ness of my conscience, the faithful witness of my 
actions, which were always directed by my wish to 
serve and honour you, nor have I the slightest 
cause of remorse, nor the least suspicious circum- 
stance, to deface the purity of that conscience. 
I do not wish to reprove you by enume- 
rating my services, but your Excellency knows and 


the world knows my fidelity, which has been exhi- 
bited as openly as a drama in a theatre; God, 
from whom no secret of the heart can be hidden, 
knows it, and as He has seen that no prince could 
be served with more fidelity, with more affection 
than I have served you, so I pray that He may 
either inspire your Excellency to reward my ser- 
vices with that liberality of mind which becomes a 
grateful and virtuous prince, or that He may give 
me patience to support my wrongs and provide 
for my necessities."* 

This letter does not appear to have had the 
effect of moving the Prince's attention, as we find 
Bernardo shortly after writing to him again, and 
expressing his increased distress at the neglect 
with which he finds himself treated. " If, illus- 
trious Signior," says he, " it be lawful for a vir- 
tuous cavalier to yield up a castle or a city long 
besieged, on which the safety of a prince and a 
nation depends because of famine, I may well and 
with a good conscience relieve my mind of that 
devotion to your Excellency, which I have pre- 
served for twenty-seven years, and transfer it to 
another. I did not lose my friends, squander 
away my very wardrobe, destroy my credit, suffer 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 17Q. 
K 5 


innumerable hardships to come to this I have 
applied myself for relief and made the application 
by others, but you have not only disdained to pro- 
vide for my wants, but even to answer my letters, 
or those which have been written on my behalf, 
hoping by that means to remove the useless burden 
from your shoulders. And this you have done, but 
not in a manner favourable to your reputation, 
the world knowing that I have served you with the 

fidelity and love which we owe to God 

My long service and loyalty, and the loss I have 
suffered of my fortune, merit not this return. Re- 
member that God, the righteous judge of our 
actions, will not without anger see you making a 
beggar of a poor unfortunate son, and burning up 
by your ingratitude as with a fire, all that is neces- 
sary to support his existence. Examine well your 
conscience; consider your conduct towards me, 
and what the world will think of you. I shall seek, 
as I can do no otherwise, the service of some other 
prince ; you have enjoyed the energies of my 
youth, another will purchase me as an old horse 
worthy of a place in his stable on account of his 
former reputation." * He then tells him that he has 
still a faithful regard for him, and concludes by 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 401. 


urgently intreating him to send the three hundred 
scudi he is in advance, in order that he may re- 
deem his wardrobe, the whole of which was in 
pledge, arid pay his debts. This letter is dated 
August 5, 1558, and met with the same treatment 
as those formerly sent. Bernardo, therefore, find- 
ing himself entirely deserted by his patron, applied 
the following year to Rui Gomez, Prince of Evoli, 
to obtain his interference with his Majesty. In 
the letter which contains this request he enters 
into a full account of the various vicissitudes of 
his life, and describes himself as left old and poor 
with his children, and as being sunk still deeper 
in misery by the death of his beloved and unfortu- 
nate wife, and the persecutions which had deprived 
his children of their inheritance. The style in 
which he expresses himself on this occasion is re- 
markably florid. Speaking of the Prince, he says, 
" As God has placed the sun in the heavens, a 
most beauteous and joyful image of himself, and 
which, by its lucid and fertilizing rays diffused 
among all created things, nourishes, increases, and 
vivifies them, so has he placed the Prince on the 
earth that he may imitate him by extending over 
men the arms of his benignity and clemency." 
Bernardo having thus found that neither re- 


monstrance nor entreaty could move his patron, 
at length determined to fix himself at Rome, and, 
taking the habit of a priest, pass the remainder of 
his life in the service of religion: but he had 
no sooner formed this resolution than intelligence 
arrived that the Imperial forces had occupied 
Ostia, Tivoli, and the whole neighbourhood of the 
city. As they were daily expected to -continue 
their march to the very walls of Rome, he knew 
that he could only remain there with the greatest 
peril, and with some difficulty he contrived to 
escape accompanied by two servants, and taking 
with him nothing more than a few clothes and his 
poems. He bent his course to Ravenna, where he 
proposed staying till the situation of Rome should 
be altered; but the Duke of Urbino no sooner 
heard of his arrival than he sent him an urgent 
invitation to Pesaro, where he appointed for his 
residence the Stanza del Barchetto, which had 
been built by his father for the sole enjoyment of 
the literary pleasures to which he was devoted. 
Here Bernardo found repose from the toils he had 
suffered so many years, and was enabled to heal 
the wounds his late misfortunes had inflicted by 
undisturbed reflection. He now also sent for his 
son Torquato, and had the delight of seeing the 


promises of his infancy present every appearance 
of being fulfilled ; having, previous to his own 
departure from Rome, sent him on a visit to his 
relations at Bergamo, from whom he had the grati- 
fication of receiving intelligence which confirmed 
his hopes of Torquato's future eminence. Thus 
relieved from the anxieties, to which the ruin of 
his fortunes had given birth, secure in the enjoy- 
ment of a tranquil home, and animated by the 
prospect of seeing his son become worthy of his 
name, he gave himself up to the correction and 
completion of his Amadigi, which was at last 
made ready for the press. Bernardo had con- 
ceived the most sanguine expectations respecting 
the success of this work, and from the interest 
with which its appearance was looked for in 
all the literary circles of Europe, he had reason 
to hope that it would permanently establish his 

But the printing of so long a work as the 
Amadigi, was an undertaking of no slight expense, 
and to a man in Bernardo's situation, was not to 
be easily accomplished. It is, therefore, creditable 
to the Venetian academicians of that age, to have 
it left on record that they offered to print the 
work at the expense of their establishment. The 


anxiety, however, which Bernardo felt to profit 
by the publication, prevented his accepting this 
offer, and he had the good fortune to obtain the 
kind assistance of the Duke his protector, the Car- 
dinal di Tornone, and others, towards the expenses.* 
Having received, therefore, the contributions of 
his friends, he set off for Venice in 1558, to super- 
intend the printing himself, and had the pleasure 
of seeing his work appear with all the correctness 
and elegance an author could desire. Besides the 
Amadigi, his " Rime" were also printed at the same 
time, and the second volume of his Letters ; and 
two years after, that is in 1562, his " Ragiona- 
mento," which he had previously recited before 
the academy. 

But about the same period the attention of Ber- 
nardo was recalled from literature to the cares of his 
family. His daughter, whom he loved with the ten- 
derest affection, and whose virtues and beauty were 
equal to those of the lamented Porzia, was married 
without his consent to Marzio Sersale, a poor gentle- 
man of Sorrento. The union, it appears, had been 
accomplished through the unjust intervention of 
Scipio Rossi, one of her maternal relatives, and 
the father regarded the circumstance as adding 

* Serassi. 


greatly to his former distresses, it having always 
been his hope that Cornelia, by being settled near 
him, would be able to comfort him in his old age, 
and in some measure supply by her attentions the 
place of her mother ; but having married a person 
whose residence was in the territory of Naples, he 
lost all hope of enjoying her "society, and therefore 
most deeply lamented the event. So good a re- 
port, however, was shortly brought him of the 
virtues of his son-in-law, that he gradually ceased 
to complain, and wrote to Marzio expressing his 
paternal feelings towards him. " Your letters," 
says he, " are very dear to me, and if I consented 
not to your marriage, it was not on your account, 
but from a desire that my daughter should marry 
in a part of the country where I might enjoy, from 
frequently seeing her, that consolation which an 
affectionate parent looks for. But since it has 
pleased God, who rules all things according to his 
will, to order it thus, I have already made his will 
mine, and look upon you now in the same manner 
as if you had been chosen by me for a son-in-law, 
only wishing that Cornelia had not used those ex- 
pressions towards me and her brother which be- 
come not an affectionate and pious daughter; but 
I pardon all, and am afflicted that the righteous 


Judge has punished her as he has done."* The last 
words allude to a loss Cornelia and her husband 
had lately suffered by the descent of some corsairs 
on Sorrento, and from whose hands, it appears from 
another letter of Bernardo, they themselves had a 
very narrow escape. 

The attention which Bernardo experienced at 
Venice was of the most flattering description. 
There were residing there at that time his friend 
Lodovico Dolce, and several other literary ac- 
quaintances, who honoured his talents, and re- 
ceived him among them as a valuable addition to 
their circle. Shortly after his arrival he was elect- 
ed, through their recommendations, secretary of 
the academy, and had a regular stipend appointed 
him in virtue of his office. His circumstances 
being thus considerably improved, and his spirits 
becoming better every day, he hired a handsome 
house, which, having always had a taste for elegant 
furniture, as appeared by his residence at Sorrento, 
he fitted up in a style of comparative magnificence. 
He had at the same time sent for Torquato, who 
reached Venice a few months after his own arrival 
there, and who found that city as agreeable to his 
.taste as it was to his father's. 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 473. 


Bernardo, as it has been said, placed the greatest 
hopes both of reputation and pecuniary advantage 
on the publication of the Amadigi, nor had he 
neglected to employ any means which appeared 
likely to produce the desired results. He had 
begun it, it is affirmed, in order to please his pa- 
tron and the nobles of the Spanish Court, with 
whom he happened to be for a time associated. 
According to his own judgment, it would have ap- 
peared better in the grave and sonorous heroic 
measure, but at their suggestion, he complacently 
undertook to rival Ariosto. In the original plan of 
the story, the rules of the epic were followed with 
the most careful attention ; there was to be but a 
single action, and the design was so perfect and 
regular, according to Torquato, that the most rigid 
critic could not have found fault with it ; but ac- 
cording to the same authority we learn that his 
desire of pleasing his patron overcame his better 
judgment, or rather, that he was willing to sacrifice 
his character as a poet to his ambition as a cour- 
tier. Having composed, it seems, some of the first 
cantos after his own plan, he read them to the 
Prince, and at the commencement of the reading, 
either the reputation he already possessed, or cu- 
riosity to hear so interesting a romance as the 


Amadis versified in Italian, collected a large num- 
ber of nobles and gentlemen of the court ; before, 
however, he arrived at the conclusion of this essay, 
the room was nearly empty, and he concluded 
from this circumstance that if he meant to please, 
he must not attempt to do so by unity of design 
or action, and he accordingly, though as Torquato 
says, unwillingly, complied with the desires of 
Sanseverino, and forsook the rules of Aristotle and 
the. critics, for the suggestions of the Court. But 
he not only changed the style and plan of the poem 
in obedience to the will of those from whom he 
expected promotion, but subsequently altered even 
the characters from a similar motive. The Duke 
of Urbino, who was as true a friend as he had 
ever possessed, was anxious that he might reap all 
the advantage from the publication he expected, 
and as he was now himself connected with the 
Spanish monarch, Philip II., he hoped that Ber- 
nardo might by proper management obtain a re- 
versal of the decree which banished him and con- 
fiscated his property. The poet, unwilling to lose 
any opportunity for effecting such an object, con- 
sented to follow the Duke's advice, and instead of 
dedicating the work to Henry II. of France, as he 
had always intended, resolved to bring it out under 


the patronage of Philip. But this determination 
made it necessary to change not merely the de- 
dication, but some very important parts of the 
poem. It contained in its original shape, and just 
as it was about to appear, several long passages 
in praise of the French King and different mem- 
bers of his family ; the personages also of the tale 
represented, in more than one instance, individuals 
of the royal house ; the change in the dedication 
made it necessary that all these should be either 
removed or modified in such a manner as to 
conceal the proper intention of the author. Ber- 
nardo, therefore, could be charged with no im- 
prudent obstinacy with regard to his poem; few 
authors were ever more willing to follow advice 
than he appears to have been ; and were the for- 
tune of a man of letters to be made by such means, 
Bernardo Tasso must surely have acquired one. 
Nor did he rest satisfied with merely attending to 
the composition of the work. He laid all his plans 
respecting the publication with the greatest cau- 
tion. Having taken the advice of many of the best 
critics respecting its correctness, he next carefully 
calculated in what manner he might best secure 
its producing him a profitable return for his la- 
bours. Rejecting, as we have seen, the interference 


of the Academy, he very prudently formed an ar- 
rangement with the printer, Gabriel Giolito, by 
which he freed himself from a part of the risk, and 
was probably enabled to bring out the work in a 
style of elegance superior to that which his own re- 
sources, although assisted as he was, would have 
enabled him to afford. He even hoped to persuade 
Giolito to illustrate the whole poem with engrav- 
ings, but the undertaking was found to be too great, 
and he was well contented to send some of the 
best copies to his noble friends elegantly bound. 
But notwithstanding all these preparations, the 
complacency with which he attended to the wishes 
of Princes and courtiers, and the care he bestowed 
on the arrangements which concerned the pub- 
lication, the Amadigi was far from obtaining the 
success which the author expected. The hundred 
and fifty persons to whom he sent copies did little 
more than return him civil thanks for the com- 
pliment; and what was more distressing to him, 
Philip, who he hoped would be moved by the de- 
dication to restore him to his former condition, 
treated it with indifference, and left the poet un- 
rewarded and unnoticed. 

A stronger lesson was never read to authors 
than this of Bernardo's on the subject of patronage. 


His weak yielding to the caprices of those about 
him, marred his original purpose in the composi- 
tion of his poem, and thereby took away that plea- 
sure which a writer feels when following his ima- 
gination on the path where they first met. The 
poet must be alone with his Muse, and believe in 
her infallibility and sanctity, or she will reveal 
none of those mysteries of his art by which he is 
to make the world venerate him as a superior 
being. The instant he allows himself to be drawn 
from the track on which he first felt his thoughts 
brightening into forms of beauty and glory, to 
doubt the potency of the charm that has led him 
among scenes originally indistinct, but becoming 
clearer and more enchanting as he proceeds, or 
to forget the delight he experienced when his 
dreams began to assume the appearance of reality, 
and he felt how precious is the power which gives 
unlimited dominion over even one province of 
imagination ; the moment he did this, he lost 
the advantageous position necessary to the success 
of the greatest genius, and without which ability 
of an inferior kind is unable to act at all. So long 
as an author follows the teachings of his heart, 
and works by the model which exists in his own 
mind, he will at any rate be sure of producing 


compositions as excellent to the full extent as the 
character of his intellect. The ideas and plans 
which a man knows to be his own, he instinctively 
developes with more care than he does those which 
are only adopted, and thus whether it be a poem, 
a problem in science, or even a mechanical inven- 
tion, excellence will only be in proportion to ori- 
ginality, because it is this alone which can excite 
that intellectual energy which gives either strength 
or beauty to the thoughts. 

The little good which Bernardo had derived 
from the publication of his works rendered him by 
no means desirous that his son should become a 
poet. He had sent him in 1560 to Padua, where 
he wished him to study the civil law, as affording 
the best means of repairing the injuries he had 
suffered from the adverse fortunes of his parents. 
But Torquato, instead of devoting himself to the 
pursuits necessary to his future profession, com- 
menced his poem of " Rinaldo," which he con- 
tinued with sufficient diligence to complete and 
prepare for publication in about a year after- 
wards. The work when finished appeared to 
possess sufficient merit to authorize its publi- 
cation, and the wishes of the young author were 
supported by the opinion of Girolamo Molino, 


Dominico Vemiro, and other literary men of 
distinction, who applied to Bernardo for his per- 
mission to print it. For some time he resisted, 
both from an unwillingness to encourage his son in 
the cultivation of poetry, and from a fear that the 
work might not be fit to appear before the public. 
At length, however, his consent was obtained, and 
he signified this favourable change in his senti- 
ments to Cesare Pavesi, one of Torquato's friends, 
and a respectable poet himself.* "I am certain, 
my most gentle Signior," says he, " that loving my 
son as you do, and as you have fully shown, you 
are as ready to correct him when you see any 
thing requiring correction, and which from the fer- 
vour of youthful vanity must often be the case, as 
you are to excuse him that if affection excites 
the one, prudence and the laws of true friendship 
do the same with the other I have, therefore, 
placed more confidence in your letters than I 
should in many others, and I thank you for your 
kind offices, as well on my own account as on that 
of my son, desiring that some opportunity may 
occur by which I may be able to show my grati- 
tude. With regard to the publication of Torquato's 
poem, although as a loving father and jealous of 

* Seghezzi. 


his honour I should have wished the contrary, I 
cannot but consent to satisfy the desires of so 
many gentlemen who have requested its publica- 
tion in preference to following my own desire and 
judgment. I am aware that the poem is not other- 
wise than an extraordinary production for a young 
man of eighteen, both the invention and language 
being worthy of praise, and the wandering lights of 
poetry which are scattered through it ; but I wished 
to have seen it all before it was printed, and to have 
examined it more accurately than I could in so 
short a time. But to oppose oneself to the intense 
desire of a young man, which like a full torrent of 
many waters rushes on to its end, would be a vain 
fatigue, and much more so as he is assisted by the 
interest of two such learned and judicious spirits 
as Vemiro and Molino, as well as many others. At 
any rate, he stands in much need of your aid, and 
that of all his other friends, that the work may be 
correctly printed, and I beg you very earnestly to 
take care of this. I am not able in this my poor 
fortune to offer you any other testimony of my 
friendship, than my will to render you all attention 
and service."* 

This letter is dated April 1562, and in the same 
year Torquato's Rinaldo was printed at Venice 

* Lettere, vol. ii. p. 501. 


by Francesco Sanese. In the following year Ber- 
nardo had the pleasure of receiving an invitation 
from Guglielmo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, to 
whose court he immediately proceeded, and was 
appointed his chief secretary. The favour he en- 
joyed with his new patron considerably improved 
his circumstances, but in a letter to Pallavicino, 
dated from Mantua, March 30, 1563, he still com- 
plains of his situation : " It grieves me," he says, 
"that our friendship has commenced in this my 
poor and adverse fortunes, and in which you can 
promise yourself so little advantage from my ac- 
quaintance not because I fail in the desire of 
assisting you, but because my means fail me."* 

There is no doubt, however, that, placed as he 
now was in the court of one of the most powerful 
of the Italian princes, he no longer suffered the 
anxieties to which he was formerly exposed ; and 
Pallavicino, in his reply to the letter quoted above, 
observes, that though he might find in the ex- 
amples of the many great men who had suffered 
poverty sufficient reasons to bear even the most 
hopeless necessity with patience, this could never 
be the lot of the most renowned Tasso, since the 
princes of the world would be always forced to 

* Lettere, vol. ii. pp, 505. 507. 


have recourse to his counsels and prudence. But 
occupied as his attention appears to have been 
with the affairs of the Duke, he found leisure for 
composition, and, soon after his removal to Man- 
tua, formed the design of making a complete poem 
out of the episode of Floridante in the Amadigi. 
The idea of this work was so pleasing to his mind 
that he made a formal memorandum of the day of 
the month and week when he began to write it : 
" In the name of God," says the inscription on the 
title of the manuscript, "I commenced my Flori- 
dante on Wednesday, November 24, 1563." His 
multiplied occupations, however, prevented his 
completing the work, but it was revised and pre- 
pared for the press, after his death, by his son, 
who published it with a dedication to the Duke of 
Mantua. The manuscript of this work was shown 
to Seghezzi by Apostolo Zeno, and was remarked 
by him to be written in the clearest and most 
beautiful hand, which, it is also farther observed 
by the same author, characterised all the manu- 
scripts of Bernardo, while the hand-writing of his 
son was as remarkable for indistinctness and incor- 

But the life of this illustrious father cf a more 
illustrious son was now drawing to a close ; after 


having received various marks of respect and affec- 
tion from Gonzaga, he was appointed by that 
prince Governor of Ostiglia, in which situation he 
died? September 4, 1569, and was buried by the 
Duke with every demonstration of honour in the 
church of St. Egidio, at Mantua, where shortly 
after a monument was raised to his memory by the 
same munificent patron. The inscription on the 
tomb was simply " Ossa Bernardi Tassi," and the 
Duke could not have better shown his sincere ad- 
miration of the poet's genius than by thus indicating 
how sacred was the spot where his ashes were in- 
terred. The same feeling was manifested in other 
respects by Gonzaga, it being his especial command 
that two pieces of tapestry, which formerly belonged 
to Bernardo, and bore the arms of the Tassi and 
Rossi, should be preserved with the greatest care 
among his most valued arrede. But the remains of 
Torquato's father were not suffered to repose undis- 
turbed : some repairs having been ordered in the 
church, the monument was destroyed, to the great 
grief of the pious son; but it is asserted, from some 
expressions in one of his letters, that the body was 
on account of this circumstance removed to the 
church of St. Paul at Ferrara.* 

* Seghezzi. 
L 2 


The character of Bernardo had many points 
which rendered him worthy of esteem. He was 
faithfully attached to his friends, and in the rela- 
tions of domestic life was inspired with the ten- 
derest and most ardent affection. His letters to 
his wife are filled with expressions of earnest 
solicitude for her happiness, and of impatience at 
the cruel necessity which so long and fatally sepa- 
rated them. In speaking of her to his friends he 
employed a language which would not have seemed 
wanting in devotion had it come from the lips of a 
youthful lover. The sorrow he felt at her death 
was deep and lasting ; and it is worthy of remark 
that his life, unsettled as it was, appears to have 
been unstained by any irregularity or licentious- 
ness of passion. His attention to the welfare of 
his children was equally meritorious. The senti- 
ments he expressed at the marriage of Cornelia 
were full of parental tenderness, and in all the 
letters in which any allusion is made to Torquato, 
he speaks with the fond enthusiasm of a father, 
whose solicitude for his son's popularity in the 
world was only exceeded by his desire of seeing 
him happy. In his conduct towards others he 
seems to have been uniformly instigated by feel- 
ings of kindness and humanity, and to have avoid- 


ed, by every means in his power, the excesses to 
which his poetical temperament might have other- 
wise led him. " The mind of man," says he, in a 
letter to the Cavalier Tassi, " has so many caverns 
in which to hide itself, that it is difficult to dis- 
cover them all. I measure others by my own; 
nor am I willing to believe of others that which I 
am not able to prove in myself. I have a heart 
full of humanity and tenderness, more ready to 
pardon than to revenge, for which I think I 
rather deserve praise than blame." 

Among the friends whom he acquired by the re- 
putation of his talents, and retained by his virtues 
to the end of his days, were Cardinal Bembo, Bro- 
cardo, Speroni, Luigi Friuli, Vittoria Colonna, who 
assisted him in his difficulties, besides many others 
who were esteemed either for their learning or their 
genius. His acquaintance with Aretino was, as 
we have seen, interrupted by the jealousy of the 
satirist, and it is a matter of wonder how a person 
of Bernardo's amiable and virtuous character could 
ever have formed an intimacy with so immoral and 
vindictive a man ; but literary reputation was suffi- 
cient in those days to make men of the most oppo- 
site feelings associate with each other, and in the 
learned societies of Florence and Venice there 


might be found characters in close union, which 
in the present day, when the population of the 
literary world is so much greater, would form them- 
selves into different parties, each the antipodes of 
the other. 

In his person Bernardo is said to have been tall 
and well formed, to have had a broad forehead, 
penetrating eyes, and a thick curling beard ; while 
his light and muscular frame enabled him to in- 
dulge in the most active pursuits, and rendered 
him remarkable for the easy gracefulness of his 

It remains but to speak of the literary merits of 
this excellent man ; and if we allow that he pos- 
sessed only a portion of the genius for w^hich his 
contemporaries, and even some later critics, gave 
him credit, there are few authors who have suf- 
fered more from the capriciousness of popular 
taste. At the time he wrote, romantic poetry was 
in full vogue, and the charm of Ariosto's fancy 
had opened the golden gates of a fairy wilderness, 
where it seemed generations of poets might wander 
and be ever discovering something new to delight 
the world. Nor could it be considered that it was 
by the peculiar originality of the Orlando Furioso 
that Ariosto obtained such signal success; the 


foundation of the story was already known through- 
out Italy and Europe, and it only professed to be 
the continuation of a poem which by its very po- 
pularity rendered it more difficult to engraft any 
thing new on the same stock. From the success, 
therefore, of the Orlando, and the disposition of 
the public to receive that species of poetry with 
favour, it might be fairly hoped both by Bernardo 
and his friends that his design would prove suc- 
cessful, and, if not rival, at least be only second to 
that of Ariosto. Had these expectations been 
founded either on the vanity of the author, or the 
inexperienced judgment of his friends, it would 
create little surprise to find they were disap- 
pointed; but this was not the case. The talents 
of Bernardo had been proved by the composition 
of many lighter pieces of considerable merit and 
popularity, and his fame as a poet was extended 
far and wide. The work, therefore, appeared with 
every advantage which the name of an author 
can confer upon a publication, and in addition to 
the influence he possessed with his immediate ac- 
quaintances to aid its circulation, he numbered, as 
we have seen, among his friends several men whose 
testimony to the merits of the poem must have 
tended greatly to assist its circulation. Still far- 


ther, the work itself is allowed to possess all the 
requisites of a good poem, when considered sepa- 
rately. " Its style," says Tiraboschi, " is elegant, 
and the versification harmonious and sweet ; the 
stanzas are well arranged, and the fable, though 
drawn from a well-known romance, is ornamented 
with a variety of incidents created by the fancy 
and imagination of the poet. Notwithstanding 
all which, and though Speroni placed it before the 
Orlando Furioso, and it was considered by others 
as the best poem they had till then seen, I believe 
there are very few who have had the courage to 
read it through for," continues the historian, 
" neither are the incidents so arranged as to hold 
the reader in suspense and lure him on, nor has the 
style that attractive variety, now rising into splen- 
dour and now becoming humble without losing its 
dignity, which seduces and charms, and prevents 
the reader from feeling disgust or weariness." * 

This was, without doubt, the true cause of Ber- 
nardo's failure. His mind was cultivated, and his 
taste refined and elegant ; but he appears to have 
wanted that fervent and luxurious fancy, which 
was the principal characteristic of Ariosto's genius, 
and without which no writer should venture on the 

* Storia della Let. Ital. 


composition of romantic poetry. There is, however, 
another cause assigned for the ill success of the 
Amadigi, and it has been ingeniously argued by 
a learned and elegant author,* that the failure must 
be attributed to the common acquaintance which 
almost every person of the age had with the ro- 
mance of Amadis. The extensive circulation, in- 
deed, both of this and other old tales of chi- 
valry is unquestionable : they formed the favou- 
rite reading of persons in all classes of society, 
for society itself still felt the full influence of the 
customs and sentiments they were intended to re- 
present. There was also a variety of incident in 
these works, a richness of colouring in the scenes, 
and a plainness, but strong, simple pathos in the 
language, which went at once home to the hearts 
of the readers ; and these old romances supplied 
the place of both history, poetry, and the drama, 
and were, besides this, the very oracles of morality, 
truth, and honour. The romance of Amadis, which 
has always been regarded as the most excellent 
of the legends of chivalry, thus obtained a very 
general circulation, and, as it had been translated 
into most of the foreign languages, its popularity 
was confined neither to Portugal, its native coun- 

* Dr. Black. 
L 5 


try, nor Italy, but extended throughout Europe. 
" Such being the case," argues the author above 
alluded to, " it was as ill-judged in Bernardo to 
choose the fable of Amadis for the subject of his 
work, as it would be in a modern to versify the 
' Telemaque,' or even to convert into poetry any 
well-known historical events. Not an incident 
could be altered without danger ; and besides, when 
a work attains a certain degree of merit, it fastens 
itself on the imagination, and every change which 
is made appears a defect. No one is ignorant of 
the fate of amendments on well-known dramatic 
compositions : nor is this ill success to be attributed 
merely to the want of merit in such amendments, 
but in a high degree to the nature of the thing." 
" On this account," he farther observes, " and in fact 
from the nature of the case, Bernardo must, at 
that time, have failed of success, had he possessed 
all the ease of Ariosto, and all the grandeur of his 
own illustrious son." 

This, however, is attributing too much import- 
ance, I conceive, to the fable. It is well known 
that many of the most popular works of fiction 
have been formed on tales already widely circu- 
lated, and the characters of which were all familiar 
to the public. The Amadis, it is true, was longer 


and more perfect in its parts than most of the 
legends from which poets have delighted to draw 
their materials : but the manner of treating a sub- 
ject in prose and verse, if the writers possess any 
originality whatever, is necessarily so different, 
that the reader of the tale in prose will discover 
little resemblance between the original fiction and 
such as it appears from the hand of the poet. 
Were the latter, indeed, to aim at nothing more 
than simply putting chapter after chapter of the 
romance into rhyme, all that is said by Dr. Black 
would hold true ; but neither Bernardo nor any other 
writer, of even moderate talent, ever formed such a 
project as this. Though they have taken the fable 
and principal characters, they have either changed or 
modified the incidents, and by that means given an 
original interest to their works an interest vary- 
ing, of course, according to the fruitfulness of their 
invention, but showing how possible it is for a 
writer, possessing sufficient genius for the purpose, 
to form a poem abounding in novelty, and the most 
powerful attractions of fancy, though the charac- 
ters he describes be as well known as the gods of 
Greece and Rome to the readers of Homer and 

But, even allowing that Bernardo's Amadigi 


possessed little interest to persons well acquaint- 
ed with the original Amadis, this would only ac- 
count for its want of sudden popularity. The old 
romances retained their place in literature but a 
comparatively short period after its publication, and 
have now, for some ages past, been only known 
to the curious : had the Amadigi, therefore, prin- 
cipally failed of success from the unfavourableness 
of the subject, the lapse of a century would have 
placed it on an equality with the noble productions 
of Italy, which are read and admired by all the 
world. But, though the story of Amadis is now 
almost as little known as if it had never been 
written, and the Amadigi, therefore, has all the 
advantage it could have reaped from a fable wholly 
original, it has at no period obtained the atten- 
tion of general readers, or falsified the remark of 
Tiraboschi, that there are very few persons who 
have had the courage to read it through. The 
truth is, with all the talents which Bernardo un- 
doubtedly possessed with great command of lan- 
guage a heart breathing the most purely poetical 
sentiments a fancy sufficiently active to command 
a succession of pleasing images, and a taste natu- 
rally acute, and rendered still more so by the study 
of the best authors with all these qualifications 


of a poet, and which enabled him to write smaller 
pieces of considerable beauty, he wanted that power 
of invention, which not only creates incidents, but 
arranges and combines them ; not merely present- 
ing to the mind objects to excite its occasional ad- 
miration, but placing it in a flowery labyrinth, along 
which it may wander without any interruption to 
its reveries, receiving, indeed, its chief delight from 
the very feeling that the charm of the poet is con- 
tinuous ; that wherever he trod became enchanted 
ground, and that whatever he touched was endowed 
with new life and glory. In the Orlando Furioso the 
reader feels this to be the case like the knight who 
passed through forests and over floods interminable, 
in search of some unknown beauty, he obeys the 
voice of the poet, and is led on from canto to canto, 
in the constant expectation of some splendid dis- 
covery, and finding in every stanza he reads some- 
thing new to urge him on in the pursuit. In this 
supreme excellence of the Orlando Furioso, the 
Amadigi is greatly deficient, and therefore fails 
in that most important requisite of a romantic 
poem the power of exciting and keeping alive 
the attention : to which it may be added, that 
while Ariosto scattered his splendid flowers with 
the profusion of one who had inexhaustible re- 


sources, Bernardo let them fall sparingly and with 
caution ; whereas the poetry of romance, to fulfil 
its proper purpose, must be as rich as human in- 
vention can make it, and continually keep the mind 
of the reader in willing subjection by the ceaseless 
glow and beauty of its style. 

The Floridante may be regarded as little dif- 
ferent to the Amadigi, of which it was originally, 
as has been observed, only an episode. The first 
eight cantos are nearly the same as they appeared in 
connection with the longer poem the other eleven 
are entirely new ; but the work was never com- 
pleted, and it is not easy to say whether Bernardo, 
long left to himself in his government of Ostiglia, 
would have worked with greater or less success than 
he did at Sorrento or Pesaro. His other poems con- 
sist of five books of " Rime," eclogues, hymns, odes, 
and elegies, most of which are much admired for 
the elegance of their style. The " Ragionamento" 
is a discourse on poetry, and was considered, as we 
have seen, worthy of great attention at the time 
of its appearance. The letters of Bernardo are 
very numerous, and though objected against on 
account of an occasional stiffness and pedantry in 
the language, they are, in general, very beautiful 
specimens of the epistolary style of the period, 


when literary men began to regard their letters 
as being part of their works, and, therefore, as 
fit for publication as their poems, or any other 
of their compositions. Aretino boasted of being 
the first whose epistles were published ; and, with 
the exception of one or two collections, made 
from the letters of some religious confessors, his 
claim to the honour appears to have been just ; 
and it has been already mentioned, how jealous he 
was of the reputation which belonged to him as 
a letter-writer. The epistles of Bernardo are, it 
will be easily conceived, as different as possible from 
those of the satirist, but the admirable sentiments 
they convey, together with the excellence of their 
language, render them highly pleasing as composi- 
tions, while as documents of the poet's life, and of the 
youth of Torquato, they are inestimably important. 
Of Bernardo's numerous literary acquaintances 
there were several who made a conspicuous figure 
at the period when they lived, but their works are 
little known to the modern reader. Among these 
was Atanagi, a man of considerable ability, and 
whose life was as much chequered by misfortune 
as that of his more renowned friend Bernardo. In 
the early part of his career, he is said to have 
joined with two of his acquaintances in the design 


of seeking their fortunes in common ; but the en- 
terprise failed, and Atanagi settled himself at Rome, 
where he lived for twenty-five years, in the con- 
stant hope that his talents would meet with the 
patronage they deserved, but found himself as con- 
stantly disappointed in his expectations. He was, 
at length, however, appointed Secretary to Giovanni 
Giudiccione, Governor of Marca, and he began to 
conceive new hopes of prosperity : but his patron 
died shortly after his obtaining the office, and he was 
again left comparatively destitute. Sickness as 
well as poverty now assailed him, and he was only 
preserved from absolute want by the liberality of 
the Cardinal Ridolfo Pio di Carpi, whose aid he 
obtained by means of a sonnet he addressed to him, 
beseeching his assistance. The death of Claudio 
Tolomei, his oldest and most tried benefactor, made 
him determine to leave Rome, and, in the year 
1557, he set out on his return to his native pro- 
vince, but so weak and reduced by sickness, that 
he was obliged to travel in a litter. This occurred 
in October, and in the following December he re- 
ceived an invitation from the Duke of Urbino to 
proceed to his court, in order to assist in correct- 
ing the Amadigi. The invitation was accepted 
with much pleasure, and, in answer to the Duke's 


letter, Atanagi expressed himself highly gratified 
by the honour which such a circumstance conferred 
upon him. The reception he met with, both from 
the Duke and the learned men assembled at his 
court, compensated, in some measure for the neg- 
lect he had experienced at Rome ; and, in a poem 
written soon after his arrival, he paid a well-merit- 
ed compliment to the liberality of his noble host: 

Anime belle, e di virtute amiche 

Cui fero sdegno di fortuna offende j 

Si. che veu gite povere, e mendiche 

Come a lei piace, che pieta contende : 

Se di por fine a le miserie antiche 

Caldo desio 1'afflitto cor v' accende ; 

Ratio correte a la gran Quercia d' oro, 

Onde avrete alimento, ombra, e ristoro. 
Qui regna un Signor placido, e benigno, &c. 

Exalted spirits ! friends of virtue, whom 
Fortune with hate and fierce disdain pursues ; 
Who, poor and friendless, weep a hopeless doom, 
The sport of her whom pity woos in vain ; 
If in your sorrowing hearts the thought arise, 
To seek some shelter from your ancient woes, 
There, where the oak of gold from dark'ning skies 
A skreen affords, and aliment bestows 
There seek thy rest, for there a Prince benign 
The sceptre sways 


But his anxiety to perform the work of correc- 
tion to the satisfaction of Bernardo and the Duke, 
had so great an effect on his weak constitution, 
that before finishing it he was obliged to retire 
into the country to nurse himself. He is, how- 
ever, supposed to have taken a part in seeing the 
poem through the press, as he accompanied Ber- 
nardo to Venice, apparently for that purpose. He 
continued to reside in that city during the remainder 
of his life, maintaining himself by correcting works 
for publication, and by giving critical opinions to dif- 
ferent authors who applied to him. It is not pre- 
cisely known in what year he died, but it is said to 
have occurred some time between 1567 and 1574.* 

Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti was another of 
Bernardo Tasso's distinguished contemporaries and 
associates. This celebrated scholar was born at 
Padua, April the 12th, 1500, and was a descendant 
of one of the most ancient families in Italy .f His 
abilities being discovered at an early period of his 
youth, he was placed under Pietro Pomponazio, 
the professor of philosophy in the university of 
Padua; but the disturbed state of the country, 
owing to the league of Cambray, put Pomponazio 
and the rest of the professors to flight, and almost 

* Mazzucbelli. t Opere, Ven. 1740- Forcellini. 


the only learned man who remained firm at his 
post was Bernardo, the father of Sperone, who 
taught and practised medicine with great repute 
and success. Bernardo, however, on the accession 
of Leo X. was invited to Rome, and on leaving 
Padua placed his son at Bologna under his former 
master. Sperone pursued the study as well of phi- 
losophy as of polite literature with the greatest 
ardour for several years, and having taken the 
degree of Doctor and returned to his native town, 
was honoured with the friendship of all the most 
learned men both of that city and Venice, which 
he repeatedly visited, and where he taught philo- 
sophy. The first interruption he appears to have 
received to his zealous pursuit of eminence as 
a scholar was his allowing himself to be per- 
suaded by his relatives to marry. The lady 
chosen for him was rich and of a noble family, 
but she had no attractions either of mind or per- 
son sufficiently great to secure his affections, and 
he confessed to his friends that it was their counsel, 
not his choice, which made him a husband. In his 
thirty-second year, however, he was elected a mem- 
ber of the Paduan Senate, and the following year was 
chosen one of the sixteen who formed the supreme 
council. His powers as an orator had ample room 


for exertion in this honourable situation, and though 
much occupied with public affairs, he still continued, 
with some few intermissions, his literary pursuits. 
Aristotle he studied because he best taught him 
to dispute acutely, to penetrate the pith of a ques- 
tion, and by the most compact order and the most 
secure conjunction to find the truth in every species 
of learning. " Thence he learned," it is said, " to 
contemplate and discourse. In Plato he next learn- 
ed the majesty and copiousness of speech ; in Xeno- 
phon, every kind of sweetness and a peculiarity not 
attained by any other author ; in Athenaeus and in 
Plutarch, he found moral precepts and copious ex- 
amples." His study of both the Greek and Latin 
classics is also said to have been as careful as it 
was extensive, the making of extracts being his 
constant custom during the perusal of any valu- 
able work. He also read the Fathers and " the 
most famous chronicles and histories, and even the 
worst and most despised romances, from which, he 
used to say, he could steal with the least danger 
of being discovered. From all these he formed in 
himself admixed and confused mass of things, which 
working up after his own manner, and receiving 
from him a new form and colour, generated his own 
particular conceits, * non piu pensati, ' in every kind 


of learning." Convinced of the excellence of his 
native language, and of its fitness for any subject 
however dignified or important, he examined the 
works of the three great Florentines with profound 
attention, and the consequence was, it is said, that 
he formed for himself a style which was neither 
Dantesque, nor like that of Boccaccio or Petrarch, 
but altogether his own, and as worthy of 'being 
imitated as that of his masters ; it being his fa- 
vourite observation, that he liked better to be a 
Paduan than a bad Tuscan; "proving," observes 
Forcellini, " that the Lingua Volgare is a judicious 
compound of the finest dialects of Italy, as Greek 
was of the finest dialects of Greece." 

Speroni's favourite species of composition was 
the dialogue, and his first production was the " Dia- 
logo dell' Amore," which having been remodelled 
and much improved, first acquired him the esteem of 
Bernardo Tasso and of the Prince of Salerno. Se- 
veral other productions of the same kind followed 
the above, and obtained general approbation by the 
elegance of the style and the ingenuity and truth 
of the sentiments. 

In the year 1543, he went to Ferrara, when 
Pope Paul III. visited that place, and on his re- 
turn was sent ambassador to Venice, where he 


was attacked with an illness which nearly brought 
him to his grave. He was also sent as ambassador 
on several other occasions ; and his reputation as 
an orator was so great, that whenever he was 
to address an assembly, it was necessary to choose 
the largest place that could be found for the meet- 
ing ; while it more than once happened at Venice, 
that on its being known he was about to display 
his oratorical powers, the shops and all public places 
were closed, the whole population of the city rush- 
ing to hear him speak. 

The publication of his tragedy of " Canace e 
Macareo," afforded new opportunities for the dis- 
play of his talents both as a critic and a rhetorician. 
By many, and by Aretino among the rest, this drama 
was praised as a master-piece of poetry; but the 
opinion in its favour was by no means general, and 
it was attacked in some quarters with unrestrained 
virulence. The Academy degli Infiammati, of 
which Speroni was a most distinguished member, 
desired to give him an opportunity of defending 
himself and his tragedy against the abuse of his 
enemies, and during six successive days he de- 
livered a series of extemporary discourses, which 
won the applause of a numerous and learned au- 


In the year 1559, Speroni lost his wife, and with 
her a great hindrance to the uninterrupted attention 
which he desired to give to literature. He had 
long desired to settle in Rome, and he now thought 
that he might gratify his wishes in this respect 
without delay. To aid him in his project, the Duke 
of Urbino offered to make him tutor to his son, 
whom he was about to place in the Court of his 
relative, Pope Pius IV. Some persuasion, how- 
ever, was requisite, to induce him to undertake the 
charge ; and it was not till the Duke had assured 
him that neither his time nor liberty should be 
abridged by his accepting the office, that he acceded 
to his wishes. The Duke's promise was not broken, 
and Speroni found himself treated by the Pope 
with the utmost, respect, his lodging being, he said, 
better than a bishop's, and the treatment he re- 
ceived even more honourable than he desired. In 
one of his letters written about this time, he says, 
that he was studying the Scriptures, and using 
himself to a different kind of eloquence to that 
which he employed at Padua and Venice, where 
there were only men, while at Rome he had to 
speak with the Vicar of God, and Cardinals.* 
After, however, having remained some years in 
the Pontifical Court, and obtained knighthood, 
* Opere, vol. v. Lettera 90. 



he grew dissatisfied with the attentions he re- 
ceived, and the sickness of his daughters, whom he 
tenderly loved, and who had now been long mar- 
ried, together with some disputes with his sons-in- 
law, contributed still farther to make him anxious 
to return to his native city. Accordingly, in Sep. 
tember 1564, he set out from Rome, and on his 
arrival at Padua, resolved thenceforth to lead a 
life of quiet and study; but he found reason to 
alter this determination, and in 1573, he again 
took up his abode in Rome. His repose was 
next interrupted by a very unexpected accident. 
Some anonymous accuser, having represented to the 
Inquisitor at Rome, that his Dialogues contained 
free and dangerous doctrines, the booksellers were 
prohibited from receiving or selling them in their 
shops. This event drove Speroni to despair, and 
he observed, that not being able to find quiet at 
Rome, he was sure he could find it in no place on 
earth. He, however, discovered the means of some- 
what softening the prejudice excited against him, 
by addressing the Pope in a careful apology, and 
by writing some new dialogues, calculated to do 
away with any hurtful impression that might be 
conveyed by those previously written. Having 
done this, he once more returned to Padua, where 


he died in June 1588, in the eighty-eighth year of 
his age, an advanced period of life for a man who 
had studied hard, and been long afflicted with seve- 
ral bodily infirmities, but which astonishes us little 
when we find it mentioned that he was not only 
temperate himself, but was the intimate friend of 
that great example of sobriety and longevity, Luigi 

Lodovico Dolce, another of Bernardo's acquaint- 
ances, though deficient in those powers of mind 
which win immortality for their possessors, was en- 
dowed with a more than ordinary versatility of talent, 
and pursued every branch of literature and science 
with indefatigable zeal. He has been described as 
a poet in all the branches of the art, epic, lyric, 
comic, and tragic as an orator, grammarian, his- 
torian, compiler, commentator, translator, and edi- 
tor. In the last mentioned character, he for many 
years superintended the extensive printing esta- 
blishment of the celebrated Giolito, and there was 
thus an additional reason, besides his own reputa- 
tion as an author and scholar, for his becoming 
acquainted with Bernardo and the numerous lite- 
rary men of his age. 

One of the eight tragedies of this author, the Ma- 
rianna, obtained so much applause at its first repre- 



sentation, that when, at a subsequent period, it was 
about to be played before the Duke of Ferrara, the 
concourse of spectators was so great, that the per- 
formance was prevented from proceeding. But 
few poets possessed of any learning or ability, 
have written so much as Dolce, and with such 
little success. Of the many epic and romantic 
poems he composed, not one is now known to 
the world; and it is observed of his ^Eneas and 
Achilles, that by his injudicious imitation and par- 
tial translation of Homer and Virgil, he produced 
neither two translations nor two new poems. Dolce 
died at Venice about the year 1569, or somewhat 
earlier, if, as is supposed, the illness with which 
he was afflicted in 1566 proved fatal. 

SLtfe of <2Sioban=storsio 

M 2 

GIOVAN-GIORGIO TRissiNO was born in the city of 
Vicenza, on the 7th, or, according to some authors, 
on the 8th of July, 1478. His parents were Gas- 
paro Trissino and Cecilia di Guilielmo Bevilacqua. 
The family of the Trissini was one of the most 
ancient and honourable of Vicenza, and Gasparo 
possessed a fortune sufficiently large to enable him 
to raise a company of three hundred soldiers at his 
own expense. At the head of this band, of which 
he was termed the Colonel, he served the Republic 
of Venice on many occasions of importance ; but in 
the year 1487, having been obliged to retreat from 
a body of Germans under Roverado di Trento, he 


took his defeat so much to heart, that he was 
seized with a fever which terminated his life in the 
thirty-ninth year of his age. 

It has been stated by some writers, that the 
education of Giovan-giorgio was so greatly neglect- 
ed in his youth, that he was two-and- twenty before 
he acquired any acquaintance with the classics ; 
but this opinion, it appears, is totally incorrect, 
and his more careful biographers speak with con- 
fidence of his early studies.* According to their 
testimony, many men of great eminence were em- 
ployed in his instruction, and at the proper age 
he was sent to Milan, where he pursued with con- 
siderable success the study of Greek, his extensive 
acquaintance with which language is proved by the 
frequent use of Greek words and idioms in his 
Italia Liberata. One of Trissino's fellow students 
at this period was the celebrated Lilio-Gregorio 
Giraldi, and to the learned Demetrio Calcondila 
these two young men, both destined to acquire 
such distinguished names in the Republic of let- 
ters, owed the chief instruction they received in 
their favourite language. Trissino retained through 
life the most grateful recollection of his master 
Demetrio, and raised an elegant monument over 

* Pier. Castelli. 


the spot where he was buried, in token of his af- 

Nor did he confine his attention to the lighter 
kinds of literature; mathematics and philosophy 
employed a great portion of his time, and to these 
studies he added that of architecture, which he 
pursued with so much ardour, that he wrote a 
treatise on the subject, and, not content with the 
mere theory of the science, the elegant palace, 
which he subsequently built in the village of Ari- 
coli, a short distance from Vicenza, was raised 
entirely according to his designs. The celebrated 
Andrea Palladio himself is generally believed to 
have owed his first instructions in the art, which 
rendered him so conspicuous, to Trissino. In the 
life of the architect, by Paolo Giraldo, it is said 
that " Andrea, already become a sculptor, having 
contracted a close intimacy with Trissino, his com- 
patriot, and one of the first literary men of the 
age, was found by the poet to be a youth of great 
ability, and much inclined to the mathematical 
sciences ; to encourage which disposition he ex- 
plained Vitruvius to him, and took him with him 
to Rome three times, where he measured and de- 
signed many of the most admired structures which 
still remain of antient Rome." Palladio was not 


ungrateful for the assistance thus rendered him in 
his youth, and has left honourable mention of Tris- 
sino in the preface to his celebrated work on the 
orders of architecture. 

In 1504, Trissino married Giovanna Tiene, a lady 
of noble family, and his townswoman. By her he 
had two sons, Francesco, who died young, and Giu- 
lio, who entered the church, and was made Arch- 
Priest of the cathedral of Vicenza, but was the 
cause of much uneasiness to his father. Giovanna 
did not live long after giving birth to these sons, 
and her death plunged Trissino into the deepest 
affliction. Unable to endure his home under the 
first impressions of distress, he hastened to Rome, 
and, as a farther means of lightening his melan- 
choly, began the composition of his tragedy of 
" Sofonisba." This occupation of his mind, and 
the distinctions he enjoyed in the Court of Leo X., 
filled with men of letters, afforded him speedy 
relief, and after a short residence in the Pontifical 
capital, he resolved to escape from the unsettled 
mode of life to which it exposed him, and return 
to Vicenza. 

He arrived in his native city towards the end 
of 1514, or the beginning of 1515, but to his great 
surprise and discomfiture, he found his revenues 


endangered by the refusal of some neighbouring 
districts to pay certain imposts on their lands 
which had been granted to the family of the Tris- 
sini. By the great interest, however, which he 
possessed at Rome, and the consequent inter- 
ference of the Pontiff, he obtained the restitution 
of his rights, and was enabled to compose his 
mind to study ; but he had scarcely resumed his 
former mode of life, when Leo, desirous of se- 
curing the services of a man so well known for his 
ability, sent him on a mission to the Emperor 
Maximilian, after seeing whom he was to proceed 
to the King of Denmark. 

The manner in which he performed these em- 
bassies increased his reputation with the Pontiff, 
and acquired him the distinguished regard of the 
Emperor. So gratified was the latter with his 
conversation and conduct that he is said to have 
bestowed upon him many marks of favour, and 
among others, to have given him the privilege of 
adding the golden fleece to his arms, unless the 
grant of this privilege be ascribed, as is more fre- 
quently done, to Charles V. The object of this 
mission, by which our author acquired so much 
honour, was to consult with the Emperor respect- 
ing a general peace, and a confederation of the 
M 5 


great European powers against the threatening 
force of the Ottoman. As soon as the discussions 
respecting this important business were concluded, 
Trissino prepared for prosecuting his journey into 
Denmark, but Maximilian resisted this intention, 
expressing his wish that he would return to the 
Pope as his own ambassador, and desire his holi- 
ness to assist him in forming a league between 
himself and the Kings of England and Spain, 
against any attempts of the French on Italy. Tris- 
sino assented to the Emperor's wishes, and bore 
a letter to the Pope, in which Maximilian excused 
himself for sending the ambassador back before he 
proceeded to Denmark, on the plea that the busi- 
ness was of immediate and urgent necessity. 

No sooner had the poet completed this affair 
than Leo sent him as his nuncio to the Republic 
of Venice, to press upon that State the necessity 
of joining in a crusade against the Turks. While 
executing his public functions, Trissino also found 
himself again involved in a law-suit with his re- 
fractory tributaries, who trusted to the protection 
of Venice in their refusal to pay the tithes due 
to the estate of our author: but, while in the 
midst of the process, he received a letter from 
Bembo, the Pope's secretary, desiring his imme- 


diate return to Rome, and such was his attention 
to the calls of his master that he suffered no cares 
of his own to interfere with public business. He, 
however, returned to Venice after a brief absence, 
and continued, it appears, to pursue the same ob- 
jects as before his recall to Rome. Nor were these 
claims upon his attention sufficient to make him 
forget his literary designs. While pressing his 
own suit before the Venetian judges, and using 
all his skill as an ambassador to obtain the con- 
currence of the Doge in the proposed crusade, he 
continued to study the rules of the Grecian drama 
with profound attention, and at length finished 
his tragedy of Sofonisba, which, though not exhi- 
biting either that power which is necessary to 
dramatic composition, or that grace and sweetness 
which form the attraction of poetry of a lower 
species, was a production of no little merit, con- 
sidering the state of the drama in Italy when it 
appeared, and that it was the first regular tragedy 
of which that country could boast. Leo was greatly 
delighted with its strict adherence to the rules 
of art, regarded it as one of the noblest ornaments 
of the Italian language, and at one time intended, 
it is said, to have it represented with the greatest 
splendour that could accompany a scenic display. 


The praise, however, of Leo, though a man of con- 
summate taste, was not such as would stamp a 
tragedy with the seal of immortality, and the 
Sofonisba, like the poems of Bembo, has been 
condemned to enjoy the applause only of a few 
cold and obscure critics. 

On the death of Leo X. in December 1521, Tris- 
sino returned to Vicenza, and again freed himself 
entirely to the enjoyment of literary leisure ; the 
first fruits of which was a canzone in honour of Isa- 
bella, Marchioness of Mantua, who in return sent 
him a pressing invitation to her court, which was 
repeated the following year, with the intimation 
that she desired him to undertake the education of 
her son. It is not known whether Trissino accepted 
this honourable offer, the letter containing which 
is dated July 19, 1522, but it seems probable that 
he did not, as in the May of the following year he 
was elected by the magistrates of Vicenza to con- 
gratulate the new Doge of Venice, the celebrated 
Andrea Gritti, on his entering upon office. In the 
same year also, the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici 
was advanced to the Papacy, and Trissino, who 
was his personal friend, wrote him a congratu- 
latory epistle, and also composed a canzone in 
his praise. These marks of attention were re- 


warded by an immediate invitation to the Ponti- 
fical Court, on receiving which, the poet without 
delay set off for Rome, and was received there 
with the affection which he had been accustomed 
to enjoy in the Court of Leo X. 

The following year he published his tragedy, 
and, having given this to the world, he turned his 
attention to a subject which has engaged the abili- 
ties of many distinguished scholars in almost every 
country of Europe. Considering the Italian alpha- 
bet not sufficiently copious to express the sounds 
of the voice, he had for some time past thought it 
necessary to employ some of those belonging to 
the Greek, and to convince the learned men of his 
time that he was correct in his ideas, he wrote to 
the Pontiff on the subject. 

" During the many years," says he, "most Blessed 
Father, that I have spent in considering the pro- 
nunciation of Italian, and in comparing it with the 
written language, I have thought the latter to be 
weak and faulty, and not adapted to express it. 
It therefore appeared to me necessary to add 
some letters to the alphabet, by means of which 
our pronunciation might in some measure be im- 
proved, and this, with the aid of God, I did, as may 
be seen in my Poetics and Treatise on Grammar. 


But since these two little works are for certain 
reasons not yet published, and since, urged by cer- 
tain friends, I have begun to make these new letters 
known, and to employ them, I have thought it 
right to explain the nature of them at the same 
time that I bring them into use ; in order that they 
may be known by those who desire to use them, 
and exposed to those who wish to judge them. 
And it has appeared to me that I ought to publish 
them under the name of your Blessedness, because 
the first time these letters were used, they were 
placed in a canzone dedicated to you ; and because 
moreover, it being the universal opinion that under 
the Pontificate of your Holiness, not only the Ro- 
man Church, but the whole Christian Republic, will 
receive light, order, and increase, it appeared to 
me most proper that under your auspicious name 
the Italian pronunciation should be in some degree 
illustrated and enlarged." He then proceeds to 
the exposition of his theory, and observes that the 
letters for which he first claims admission into the 
Italian alphabet are the Greek e and , there being 
of the vowels e and o two pronunciations, for the 
expression of which a single character is insufficient. 
He adds, that the proper application of these new 
signs would wonderfully assist towards the attain- 


ment of the Tuscan and Court (Cortigiana) pro- 
nunciation, the most admirable, without doubt, 
in Italy. The next character he introduces is the 
z, which he observes has two sounds, sometimes 
that of a g> at others that of c, and completes 
his design by proposing to prevent the confusion 
resulting from the vowels i and u being sometimes 
used as consonants, by introducing the^' and ?, thus 
on the whole increasing the alphabet by the addi- 
tion of five new characters ; the three first-men- 
tioned being of the highest importance, and the 
last two useful, but of less consequence. Before 
concluding the epistle, he anticipates the objec- 
tions which are likely to be made to his proposed 
improvement, and in respect to those who should 
oppose his theory on the plea of its being an inno- 
vation, he inquires whether they wear their clothes 
of the same fashion, or do any thing as their ances- 
tors did ? innovation, he observes, being constantly 
made, according to present necessity and the wants 
of the time ; and if these changes take place in 
laws and customs, why is there to be no change 
made in writing, by which we teach and preserve 
our thoughts ? the more especially, as great alte- 
rations have actually been made in it since former 
times, as any one may perceive, who will ex- 


amine any ancient document. In regard to those 
who should object that his object might be at- 
tained more easily by means of accents, he shows 
that they are less intelligible, more liable to con- 
fusion, and not of a nature to remove the defect 
complained of. 

He was thus the first to bring the question 
before the public; but the same idea, it appears, 
had some few years before been started by the 
academicians of Siena, and though his theory was 
praised for its ingenuity, and he had the merit of 
priority in publishing it, he obtained little encou- 
ragement, and had, in the words of Castelli, more 
flatterers than followers. The letter had also been 
but a short time in print, when a host of oppo- 
nents arose, who treated the writer with little cour- 
tesy. Among these, one of the most conspicuous 
was Lodovico Martelli, who asserted that there was 
no need of the additional characters, and that it 
would be injuring the simplicity of the Tuscan lan- 
guage to employ them. Another of his critics was 
Firenzuola, a monk of Vallombrosa, who accused 
him of being a plagiarist, and asserted that he had 
stolen the idea from some young Florentines ; 
while a third found fault with him for not having 
done sufficient. In answer to these attacks, Tris- 


sino published his " Dubbi Grammatical!," and a 
short time after, a dialogue entitled " II Castel- 
lano." Nor did he want supporters either in his 
own or a subsequent age ; the learned Maffei speaks 
of his theory with the highest approbation, and Fon- 
tanini says, that he deserves to be called the se- 
cond Cadmus. The most striking testimony, how- 
ever, in his favour is that, though the other letters 
which he proposed to introduce never obtained a 
place in the Italian alphabet, the,;, the v, and the 
z, almost unknown till his time in that language, 
have been ever since recognized as a part of its 

In the preface to the Dubbi Grammaticali he 
says, " I have always esteemed the endeavour to 
render assistance to others, the finest and the most 
honourable of human designs, and have always, to 
the best of my weak ability, exercised myself in it. 
Nor did I for any other reason add the new cha- 
racters to the alphabet, than to be useful to those 
who are studying our language ; and although 
some, stimulated either by the desire of glory or 
by envy, have written against me, I am not willing 
to cease from pursuing, to the best of my power, so 
excellent and noble a subject ; begging my adver- 
saries, at the same time, to accept my thanks for 


having written against me, as they have thereby 
tended to make the nature and utility of these 
letters better understood, and the real state of the 
question better known, and had they convicted me 
of error, I should most willingly have submitted 
to their correction. But since I have been con- 
demned by them for what I ought not, and been 
absolved where I merited blame, I have therefore 
taken upon myself to correct and remove the errors 
into which I have partially fallen." 

From these literary pursuits his attention was 
again called in 1525, by the posture of public af- 
fairs. Francis I. having been taken prisoner at 
Pavia, the Pope soon after found it necessary to 
enter into negotiations, which the talents and long 
experience of Trissino rendered him peculiarly 
qualified to conduct. As ambassador to the Re- 
public of Venice and the Emperor Charles V., he 
again exercised the skill in managing affairs of 
importance which had secured him such honour- 
able notice in the early part of his career, and Cle- 
ment continued to regard him with the esteem due 
to so old and faithful a servant of the Princes of 
the Church. 

The next five years was a troubled period for 
all who were in any way engaged in public affairs, 


and there can be little doubt that Trissino ex- 
perienced a full share of the alarm so general in 
1527, when the head of the Catholic Church was 
torn from his palace, and made a prisoner by the 
arm of a temporal sovereign. Certain it is, that 
when the storm passed away, he was among the 
first who participated in the returning prosperity 
of the Pontiff; and on the arrival of Charles at Bo- 
logna, in order to be solemnly crowned King of 
Lombardy and Emperor of the Romans, our poet 
was in attendance on Clement, and at the cere- 
mony of the coronation bore his train, an honour, 
it is said, never conceded but to persons of the 
highest distinction. 

The favour which he thus for so many years ex- 
perienced at the hands of Leo X. and Clement VII. 
affords a very striking proof of his talents both as a 
scholar and a man of business ; for with the former 
of these Pontiffs the chief recommendation to notice 
was learning and literary ability, and the latter 
was placed during his Pontificate in so many ha- 
zardous situations, that it must have been an ex- 
traordinary degree of confidence in Trissino's good 
sense which induced him to trust so many negotia- 
tions to his superintendence. It was no doubt ow- 
ing to the close connection which existed on these 


accounts between the poet and the Papal Court, 
that an opinion gained ground in a subsequent age 
that he was a churchman, and enjoyed numerous 
ecclesiastical preferments. Voltaire, whom M. 
Ginguene convicts of great carelessness in one sen- 
tence, but praises for historical accuracy in another, 
terms Trissino an archbishop, and he has been fol- 
lowed, it seems, by several other writers, who have 
incautiously adopted his statements. But whatever 
were the rewards bestowed on our author for his 
zealous attachment to Leo and Clement, they were 
certainly not bishoprics ; and it is reported that the 
former even offered in vain to make him a Cardi- 
nal, Trissino preferring to take a second wife, to 
being raised to the high rank thus within his at- 

The fatigue he suffered at Bologna had a very 
injurious effect on his health, and he began to find 
it necessary to be more careful in the expenditure 
of strength. He was arrived at the age of fifty- 
two ; had passed an active, and in some respects 
perhaps, a laborious life, and though neither his 
years were sufficiently numerous, nor the cares he 
had experienced of a nature to injure the health 
considerably, yet to a man desirous of preserving 
himself from the worst infirmities of age, his present 


condition afforded a warning that it was time to 
retire from the bustle of public life. 

Trissino, who appears to have possessed more 
prudence than the generality of his brother bards, 
lost not a day in putting the resolution to which he 
had come in execution, and, taking his leave of the 
Pope, he set out from Bologna for his seat at Vi- 
cenza. His first care on reaching home was to 
terminate the vexatious law-suits which had so 
long troubled his mind, and after some few months 
farther litigation, he succeeded in finally settling 
the dispute with his refractory neighbours. But 
cares of a different and still more harassing nature 
speedily followed. His second wife was Bianca, 
a daughter of Niccolo Trissino, and the widow of 
Alvise Trissino. By the poet she had a son and a 
daughter, and by her former husband a son who 
was still living, and her maternal anxiety for whose 
welfare had suffered no diminution from her second 
marriage. Giulio, Trissino's eldest son, who was 
now Arch-Priest of the cathedral church of Vicenza, 
was, notwithstanding his ecclesiastical profession, 
infected with the most violent jealousy of his bro- 
ther-in-law, and, considering the affectionate con- 
duct of Bianca towards her son as an injury to 
himself, he lost no opportunity of thwarting her 


designs. The lady, probably, was little inclined to 
suffer the asperity of Giulio's behaviour unresented, 
and thus the unfortunate Trissino was placed be- 
tween two fires, which only seemed to burn the 
quicker the more he endeavoured to extinguish 
them, and from which with all his experience and 
political skill he found himself unable to escape. 

Things remained in this state for some years ; 
the poet suffering the greatest domestic uneasiness, 
while his townsmen and others continued to mani- 
fest towards him all the respect due to his talents 
and experience, sending him as their representative 
before the Venetian Senate, and trusting to him 
the most important of their negotiations. The 
same respect attended him in his literary charac- 
ter. The celebrated Rucellai had been for many 
years one of his most intimate friends, and it was 
the urgent wish of that learned man, on his death- 
bed, that Trissino should undertake the preparation 
of his unpublished poems for the press : this re- 
quest would have been attended to by our author 
with a zeal proportioned to the strength of his long 
standing friendship, but Rucellai died before he 
could make his wish known, and could only direct 
that his poem on Bees should be dedicated to 


In the year 1540 he lost his wife Bianca, and it 
might have been supposed that the strife which 
had for so long a time disturbed his quiet would 
then cease; but instead of this being the case, 
the jealousy and rancour of his children were 
increased, and he found that his admonition and 
authority were both alike despised. Giulio set no 
bounds to his passion, and the unfortunate father 
saw himself on the point of being deprived of a 
large part of his fortune in a suit instituted against 
him by his son. Unable to endure any longer the 
strife and ingratitude of his family, he determined 
to leave Vicenza, and seek a home at a sufficient 
distance from the scene of his present troubles to 
save him from any farther annoyance. In con- 
formity with this design he retired to Murano, a 
short distance from Venice : soon after arriving at 
which place, he found himself sufficiently com- 
posed to resume his literary occupations, and sit 
down to the completion of his celebrated, though 
not popular epic, the " Italia Liberata da i Goti." 
He had begun this work some time before the 
present period, and it was not finished till he had 
expended on its composition twenty years, a pe- 
riod which, in these fruitful days, when the mind 
is expected to be at least as productive as it is 


active, seems greatly too long for the production 
of a single work, but which shrinks into insignifi- 
cance when it is remembered that the same time 
was exhausted by Sannazzaro on the De Partu 

The Italia Liberata contributes very strongly to 
mark the character of the age when it appeared. 
We discover throughout that period a tendency to 
root out the precious seeds with which Nature 
herself seems to have sown the soil of Italy, a soil 
which, had it not been picked and cleared by the 
nice hand of critics at one time, and trampled under 
foot by the war-steeds of tyrants at another, would 
have by this time been overrun, even to an excess 
of beauty, by flowers of all forms and hues, and 
whose rich odours would have now filled the intel- 
lectual atmosphere of Europe, as they did that of 
England in the spring and summer days of our poetry 
in those of Chaucer and Shakspeare. Ariosto 
was, as we have seen, persuaded to write in Latin ; 
Bernardo Tasso unwillingly composed a romance 
instead of a classical epic ; Sannazzaro thought his 
fame must perish if it depended on poetry in his 
native language ; and Pietro Bembo had the same 
idea : but it was reserved for Trissino to show the 


learned spirit of the age in the most decided manner. 
The other writers who lived with, or shortly pre- 
ceded him, had hesitated between the ancient and 
the modern language, and, when they adopted the 
former, it was from the high opinion they had 
formed of its powers, and from a notion that they 
could express their thoughts more forcibly and 
clearly by its idioms than by those of their native 
tongue. Adopting the language, they almost ne- 
cessarily adopted the forms of classical composi- 
tion ; and the works, they thus produced, seemed 
rather like newly-transplanted trees, than as if they 
had been long naturalized to the soil. But Tris- 
sino, instead of taking the language, and therefore 
the forms and measures of ancient poetry, was suf- 
ficiently imbued with classical learning to reject 
the language in which it was conveyed, and, unlike 
his timid predecessors, determined to be a classic 
in his own tongue. This was the perfect triumph 
of art and learning over nature, and, like all such 
triumphs, won a partial and momentary applause, 
and was then forgotten. The Italia Liberata was 
a prodigious effort of ingenuity, for ingenuity 
may, perhaps, be considered the imitative faculty 
employed in copying mere human models, while 
VOL. li. N 


genius is the same faculty working after the beau- 
ideals of the mind, or the most perfect forms that 
exist in nature. 

The poet, however, having completed and cau- 
tiously corrected the first nine books of his epic, 
sent them to press, and they appeared at Rome in 
the year 1547. Trissino lost no time in forward- 
ing a copy of the work, as far as it was printed, to 
the Emperor Charles V., who, on receiving it, ex- 
pressed .the highest satisfaction at the present, 
and signified his approbation of the poem itself 
by desiring the author to let him have the remain- 
der as speedily as possible. Trissino was in no 
slight degree gratified by the Emperor's compli- 
ments, and immediately prepared to complete the 
remaining books, his success with^ those already 
printed having the effect of stimulating him to still 
greater care in polishing and correcting those not 
yet published. By the following year the remain- 
ing books were printed, and he instantly forwarded 
them, with all the anxiety of a young author eager 
to reap the first harvest of fame, to the Emperor. 
Praise as flattering as that bestowed on the 
former occasion was the reward of the poet's toils, 
or, as it might, perhaps, be said with more truth, 
of his fidelity and homage to the imperial critic. 


But, notwithstanding the time and pains which 
had been employed upon the Italia Liberata da 
i Goti notwithstanding the reputation already 
enjoyed by its author; and though, above all, he 
had been the friend of successive Pontiffs, and was 
a favourite with the Emperor, the poem did not 
escape the attacks of many severe critics, some of 
whom, that nothing might escape them, began 
with the title, which, on the one hand, was said 
to be too long, and on the other, not sufficiently 
clear. It was next objected that the Dialogues 
were wearisome and badly managed, it being an 
offence against probability to represent persons 
making long and formal speeches in the midst of 
battles. Another objection was in respect to the 
time which the action occupied; it would have 
been better, it was remarked, if the story had 
commenced at a later period of the war, that is, 
when Belisarius arrived at Rome, or, at least, in 
Italy ; and also if it had been kept free from the 
love adventures of Justinian, the recital of which 
was unworthy of the main subject. The last ob- 
jection has given rise to some controversy among 
Italian critics. It having been observed by Fon- 
tanini* that Trissino inserted some things in his 

Bibliotheca della Eloquent. Ital. 


poem which merited great censure, but after- 
wards, like a good Christian, being convinced of 
his error, amended or changed the verses, his 
annotator remarks, that he spent a long time in 
endeavouring to discover where the changes above- 
mentioned were made ; and for that purpose ex- 
amined a great variety of copies, but all in vain. 
" Nor should I ever," he continues, " have been 
able to satisfy myself had not Signer Giuseppe 
Farsetti lent me a copy which contained the cor- 
rected passages, and the whole of which, to my no 
little surprise, were no more than three, the alter- 
ations in which consisted of only a few words." It 
would have been infinitely better, concludes Zeno, 
if, as a good Christian and Catholic, Trissino had 
not scandalized the Church by calumniating the 
holy Pontiff Silverius, as he does in his sixteenth 

Crescimbeni is another of the writers who most 
severely criticises our poet, observing that he is 
much too exact or minute in his minor descriptions, 
especially in that of Justinian's dress, all the 
parts of which he mentions, and in the exact order 
in which they were put on. Other writers have 
made the same objection, adding, with great just- 

* Apos. Zeno. Note al Fontanini. 


ness, that the energy required in an epic poem 
is by no means to be acquired by an exact de- 
scription of objects not great or excellent in them- 
selves. Giraldi Cintio, from whom Castelli quotes 
this observation, remarks also that the age in 
which Homer wrote, the custom of the times, and 
the singular power evinced by that divine poet, 
made such things tolerable in him; but that Tris- 
sino, by imitating him in these respects, did no 
otherwise than " select the refuse from the gold 
of Homer, imitate his vices, and gather toge- 
ther all that which good judges would wish to be 
rid of by which he showed little wisdom." To 
these observations may also be added that of Ber- 
nardo Tasso, who remarks in one of his letters, that 
" if Trissino had been as judicious in selecting a 
subject worthy of twenty years' labour, as he was 
extensively learned, he would have seen that to 
write as he did, was to write for the dead." 

The objections thus made against the Italia 
Liberata, appear to be so well founded, that they 
have been permitted to determine its fate with 
little contradiction. The learned Maffei, in his pre- 
face to the edition of our author's works, judi- 
ciously avoids entering into the subject, and only 
observes that many objections are made to the 


poem, which he shall leave for those to discuss who 
treat of the various sorts of poetry. " I will only 
say," he continues, " that for a composition to merit 
praise, it is not necessary that it should be free 
from every defect ; and I will also say, that it would 
be useless to reason on many of the objections 
with those who have no taste for the antique, or 
for Greek. Torquato Tasso, indeed, who speaks of 
\t in many parts of his prose works, did not approve 
of the author's having followed Homer in certain 
obsolete and obscure customs ; or of his having 
taken too much matter, that is the whole Gothic 
war, in which he did not follow Homer. But 
when he speaks of unity of action in the third 
book of his Treatise on Heroic Poetry, he did not 
subscribe to the vulgar opinion, but observed the 
superiority of Trissino in this respect to Ariosto." 
The passage alluded to by Maffei is as follows : 
" Ariosto who, forsaking the example of the ancient 
writers and the rules of Aristotle, has compre- 
hended many and various actions in his poem, is 
read and re-read by people of every age, and of 
either sex ; he is known in all languages, pleases 
all, is praised by all, lives and continually grows 
young again in fame, and takes his glorious flight 
through all the languages of the world ; but Trissino, 


on the contrary, who resolved upon religiously imi- 
tating and observing the poems of Homer and 
the precepts of Aristotle, mentioned by few, read 
scarcely by any, mute in the theatre of the world, 
and dead to the light, is hardly to be found buried 
in the library of a man of letters."* 

After all that has been said by these several 
critics, the chief fault of which Trissino stands ac- 
cused, is a fault of judgment rather than a failure 
of poetic ability, and there can be little doubt that 
if either Ariosto or Tasso had allowed himself to 
be led away by the idle ambition of writing a clas- 
sical epic in blank verse, neither of them would have 
escaped the fatal influence which such a radical error 
in the design must have had upon their genius. No 
comparison can of course be made between Trissino 
and these great men, but the orator of Vicenzo 
had sufficient poetry both in his heart and mind 
to save him, had he not so erred in judgment, 
from the fate which has attended his Italia Li- 
berata, and he affords us one of the many instances 
which exist in literary history, of men of the best 
judgment in other things, making woful mistakes 
in their choice of subjects, or in their manner of 
treating them. Almost the whole of Trissino's 
works, indeed, were experiments on public taste ; 
* Del Poema Eroico, lib. iii. 


the period when they appeared tempted, perhaps, 
and authorized such experiments ; but to secure 
their success a most penetrating as well as solid 
judgment was required, and great power of exe- 
cution to prevent novelty of form from appearing 
crude and unnatural. 

While Trissino was thus occupied with his poem 
and the critics who attacked it, his son Giulio was 
pressing his claims upon the estate with unceasing 
resolution. Irritated, as was natural, at this treat- 
ment, he made a will, by which he disinherited 
Giulio, and made Giro the sole heir to his fortune ; 
but he had scarcely finished the arrangements 
respecting this testament, when he heard to his 
surprise and indignation that a sentence had been 
passed against him in the court where the cause 
was tried, and thus found himself deprived of a 
great part of his possessions. Full of resentment, 
and disgusted with his country, where he felt that 
he had only met with strife and injury, he imme- 
diately set out for Trent, where the Emperor was 
then staying, and having explained to him the 
circumstances in which he was placed, proceeded 
to Mantua, and thence, notwithstanding his age 
and infirmities, by rapid journeys to Rome, where 
he met with the same honour and regard he 


had experienced in former years, and after a brief 
enjoyment of the consolation thus afforded him, 
he died lamented in the year 1550. 

Trissino merits a distinguished station among 
the learned men of his age. His acquaintance 
with the classics was extensive, and in his habits 
of study he was patient and laborious. Before 
writing the Italia Liberata, he read, it is said, every 
work that could be procured which embraced any 
notice of the classical ages, or served to illustrate 
the history or manners of the times ; and, in speak- 
ing of his anxiety to make his treatise on poetry 
as useful and correct as possible, he says, " I have 
spared no fatigue ; besides the Volgare Eloquenza 
of Dante, and the Regole di Antonio di Tempo, I 
have read almost all the ancient Trovatori, Sicilian, 
Italian, Provencal, and Spanish, which could be 
obtained; and I shall think little of this fatigue 
if I may thereby have satisfied those many inge- 
nious foreigners who are desirous of information 
on the subject."* Most of his works bear evident 
signs of the care and study with which he wrote, 
and the consideration he obtained in the learned 
Court of Leo X. is a sufficient proof that he could 
employ it as an accomplishment, and enrich his 

* De la Poetica. Opere, ii. p. 92. 
N 5 


conversation as well as books by the erudition he 

Of the Italia Liberata and the Sofonisba, it only re- 
mains to be said that they were the first Italian works 
written in blank verse.* His other poetical pro- 
ductions consist of sonnets and canzoni, of which the 
former were described by a contemporary writer as 
clear, sententious, and pathetic, while the latter ob- 
tained attention as presenting the first imitation of 
the Pindaric Ode seen in Italian : " As each stanza," 
says he in his Poetics, " ought to have the same 
form, and the same quality, and quantity of verses 
as the first, I have therefore, in imitation of Pin- 
dar, who makes the strophe and antistrophe alike, 
and then introduces the epode of a different struc- 
ture, composed canzoni, which have the first two 
stanzas similar in structure, in the manner of the 
strophe and antistrophe, and the third different 
to them, like the epode, with which third stanza 
agrees the sixth, as the fourth and fifth with the 
first and with the second ; and in this order, three 
stanzas agreeing with three stanzas, to the end of 
-the canzone." f Besides these poems, he also 
wrote a comedy, entitled " I Similimi," an imitation 
of the Menemmi of Plautus. It was dedicated to 
* Zeno al Fon. t Opere, vol. ii. p. 70. 


the Cardinal Farnese, in his epistle to whom he 
gives his reasons for undertaking the work. " Hav- 
ing," he says, " composed in the Italian language, 
a tragedy and an heroic poem, which, the former 
imitating by representation, the latter by enunci- 
ation, treat of the actions and the manners of great 
and illustrious men, and convey instruction by ex- 
citing pity and terror, I formed the idea of ad- 
venturing upon the third species of poetry, that 
is comedy, which treats of the actions and manners 
of the middle and lower classes, and performs the 
work of instruction by means of ridicule and laugh- 
ter. And as in my tragedy and epic I sought to 
observe the rules laid down by Aristotle, and ex- 
emplified in Homer, Sophocles, and the other best 
poets, so in comedy I have desired to preserve the 
manner of Aristophanes, that is, of the old comedy. 
Having, therefore, taken a happy invention of 
Plautus, I have changed the names and added 
characters, and in some parts altered the order, 
and introduced the chorus, and having thus adapt- 
ed it to my wishes, venture to send it forth in this 
new dress." 

The prose works of our author, besides those 
already mentioned, are the Poetics, above al- 
luded to, and which contain much useful ob- 


servation, as well as technical criticism. It was 
regarded both by contemporary and succeeding 
scholars as a work of profound erudition and cri- 
tical skill. His other productions in prose consist 
of his Oration addressed to Andrea Gritti, two 
Dialogues, under the titles II Castelano and I 
Ritratti, and an Epistle on the life which ought to 
be led by a widow. The former of the dialogues 
was on the subject of his new letters ; the latter, 
I Ritratti, or The Portraits, is one of the most 
elegant specimens of this species of writing in 
existence, and I cannot, perhaps, give a better idea 
of Trissino's style than by presenting the reader 
with a specimen from this essay. 

The author introduces the dialogue by informing 
the reader that when Lucio Pompilio was at Fer- 
rara, and in the house of Margarita Cantelma 
Duchess of Sora, he was requested by a brilliant 
assembly of young and noble persons to repeat a 
conversation he once had at Milan with Cardinal 
Bembo and Vicenzio Macro. Pompilio having 
been, it is said, to visit Demetrio Calcondile, and 
found the Cardinal at the house of the venerable 
old man, was returning in company with the learned 
churchman, when they unexpectedly met Macro. 
Perceiving that something particular occupied his 


mind, they inquired why he was so abstracted, 
and found to their surprise that though a philo- 
sopher, he .had been thrown into this state of won- 
der by some beautiful woman whom he had just 
seen at church. Macro was immediately question- 
ed as to her name, and similar particulars, but he 
knew nothing of her, except that she was from 
Ferrara, which he had learnt from hearing some 
one in the crowd say, " such are the beauties of Fer- 
rara." The curiosity of the Cardinal and Pompilio 
being excited, it was resolved that Macro should 
picture the lady's person and appearance in the 
best manner that could be done by words. This 
he consented to attempt, but before beginning his 
portrait, he inquired of the Cardinal whether he 
knew the most celebrated beauties of Vicenza, 
Florence, and other cities, to which Bembo having 
answered in the affirmative, mentioning Trissino's 
wife as one of the chief beauties of Vicenza, Macro 
said he should do as Zeuxis did, and take what 
was fairest in each to form his picture. 

" I will first take/ said Macro, ' the head of 
Ericina, on which the locks are neither too full 
nor too thin; the measured beauty of her fore- 
head and the arching of her lovely eyebrows, and 
likewise the eyes, humid with that gladness and 


delight which sparkle in them, blended with a cer- 
tain degree of majesty ; and these we will leave as 
Nature formed them ; next we may observe the 
exquisite junction of the soft arms to the delicate 
hands, and that of the hands to those long fingers 
which taper so insensibly to the end, and are 
encircled with splendid rings. The cheeks, then, 
and those parts which are confined by the hair, 
and that which circumscribes the eyes, we will 
take from Vicenza and from La Trissina ; and also 
the most benignant and sweet smile which makes 
us forget our wonder, and the holy modesty, and 
the gravity of motion, and the gracefulness of atti- 
tude, these we will take from her. Next, the nose 
of admirable measure and becoming quality, and the 
well-formed chin, and the tenderness of those parts 
which proceed from it, as the cheeks and those under 
it which are on the confines of the neck, these Spi- 
nola shall give. But the sweet and most lovely 
mouth, and the delicate lips, and the equal and well- 
proportioned neck, and the full size of the person, 
which neither extends itself into a disagreeable 
height nor descends into littleness, these are afford- 
ed by the Countess. The bosom moderately full, 
and the squareness of the shoulders, and their 
largeness a little increasing towards the neck, with 


which they are most exquisitely united, these may 
be taken from Clemenza de' Pacci ; and also the 
age, which, according to my judgment, should not 
much exceed twenty-three, would be, it seems, 
that of these ladies.' ' Truly,' said Bembo, ' this 
your portrait is a very beautiful and excellent one.' 
* It will appear still more so when it is finished,' 
replied Macro. 'Have you not completed it then?' 
said Bembo, again : * what can be wanting when 
every thing has been so punctually mentioned ?' 
' Much is wanting,' said Macro, if colours are as 
necessary to beauty as I believe them to be.' " 

Having rejected both particular ladies and the 
most splendid painters as guides in this respect, 
Macro takes Petrarch as the best, from whom, he 
says, he will first paint the hair, making it, as the 
poet did, * of fine gold, and than gold brighter ;' 
then the face, fair as the pure snow, or rather like 
white roses mixed with red in a golden vase ; next 
the lips, like vermilion roses; the eyebrows like 
ebony; and the soft bright eyes like two most 
lucid stars, and with an expression which * can 
make the night clear and the day obscure, and 
honey bitter and wormwood sweet.' 

* Such,' continues the speaker, ' is this mar- 
vellous lady, as our description and the noble poet 


have depicted her. But that, above all, which 
distinguishes her figure, is the grace which accom- 
panies it ; all the graces and the loves flock dancing 
round her, adorning even her slightest move- 
ment in such a manner as cannot be described 
either by speech or any other human means, and 
can scarcely be conceived by the mind.' ' A most 
divine thing, truly,' said Bembo, ' is this which you 
describe, and which might be termed the rarest 
gift Heaven has ever bestowed on the race of mor- 
tals ; but I hope you will not refuse to tell us what 
her dress is, and in what manner you beheld her.' 
' She wore her hair loose,' said Macro, ' and so 
that her ringlets fell carelessly on her white and 
delicate shoulders ; but over her head was thrown 
a silken tawny-coloured net, which seemed of won- 
derfully fine workmanship, and the knots of which 
were of the finest gold, and through the meshes of 
this net her locks might be seen scintillating like 
the rays of the sun. On the summit of her fore- 
head, where the hair divides, she wore a most 
beautiful and brilliant ruby, from which hung a 
very large and lucid pearl ; on her neck also she 
wore a string of very large, equal, and most splen- 
did pearls, which, hanging on each side of her 
bosom, descended almost to the waist. Her robe 


was of rich black velvet, loaded with gold orna- 
ments, so well placed and so exquisitely wrought, 
that the artificers seemed, in order to adorn her 
person, to have contended with Nature herself. This 
lady I saw enter the cathedral, having just, as it 
seemed, left her carriage, to pray ; she had a book 
in her hand, open at the part from which she had 
been reading, and she was speaking with one of 
her attendants, but not so that I could hear what 
she said; she, however, smiled as she spoke, and 
showed between her rosy lips a row of the whitest 
and most equal teeth, which might be compared 
to the driven snow, as Messer Cino da Pistoia 
said, * fra le rose vermiglie d'ogni tempo.' 

i Proceed no farther, Messer Vicenzio,' said 
Bembo, ' I know whom you are describing, both from 
what you now say, and from having before mentioned 
her country, it is the Signora Marchesana of Man- 
tua.' Having expressed his admiration of this 
paragon of personal beauty, Bembo continues to 
observe that that of her mind and heart is equally 
perfect. * But I could name ladies,' says he, * who, 
being very beautiful in their persons, obscure and 
debase their beauty by the lowness and vulgarity 
of their minds, so as to produce in us a feeling 
of hate, and such women appear to me like the 


ancient temples of Egypt, the building of which was 
fair and beautiful, and composed of most precious 
stone, and ornamented in a sumptuous manner 
with gold, but the gods who inhabited them were 
only apes, or oxen, or cats, or other base animals.' 

This observation of Bembo induced Macro to 
request that he would draw him a picture of an in- 
tellectual and moral beauty, as he had done of one 
in form and external appearance. The Cardinal 
consented, saying, that he must draw his help 
neither from poets nor painters, but from philoso- 
phers. ' First, then,' continued he, ' I will make 
her voice, as Petrarch says, clear, sweet, angelic, 
and divine, and her language far sweeter than that 
which proceeded from the mouth of the old Pastor 
in Homer and, that every thing may be particu- 
larly noted, the tone of the voice is not so low as to 
be to"6 feminine or shrill, but it is sweet and tender, 
like that of a lad not yet arrived at youth ; and 
that tone most sweetly insinuating itself into the 
ear, begets a certain delightful echo in it, which, 
even when the voice ceases, rests softly there, and 
preserves some relics of the discourse, and a cer- 
tain sweetness full of persuasion in the mind. But, 
when it is heard in song, and especially when 
accompanied by the lute, it would bewilder with 


astonishment Orpheus and Amphion themselves, 
who could make inanimate things obey their song ; 
and I am confident that neither of them knew so 
well how to preserve the harmony, so that the 
rythm be never lost, but kept strictly marked by 
the elevation and depression of the song, always 
in accordance with the lute the tongue, and the 
hands, and the inflections of the melody being all 
in union with each other. Wherefore, I am sure, 
that if you heard her sing, you would be like 
those who heard the Syrens, and would lose all 
thoughts of your country and home, and that 
it would make its way into your ears, though 
they were closed with wax. In one word, this 
song is such as is to be expected to pass through 
such lips and teeth as have been described. 
With regard to her speech, it is neither purely 
of her own country, nor purely Tuscan, but com- 
posed of that which is most beautiful both in 
the one and the other, and thus a mixed and most 
sweet language; it has in itself some graces and 
expressions beyond description pleasing and apt, 
and which, used by her, never startle, but always 
delight; and by this you may judge how admirably 
her erudition is combined with genius. This is the 
description of her voice and singing, but it is much 


inferior to the reality. I will next form the rest, 
since I do not desire to follow your example, and 
compose one beauty from many, which, perhaps, is 
less difficult and more convenient for painters, sculp- 
tors, and others ; but I wish for every virtue of the 
mind to draw a portrait as like the original as 
possible.' ' Truly,' said Macro, ' you return us a 
fair measure, and I pray you do so, since nothing 
can be more grateful or delightful.' * Since, then,' 
resumed Bembo, * erudition is necessarily the ma- 
jestic guide to all noble operations of the mind, 
I will make a picture which shall present great 
variety and many figures, such as your imagination, 
probably, will not be able to surpass. We will 
describe her, then, as possessing all the gifts of 
Castalia and Parnassus ; not one power only as that 
of Calliope, Clio, Polymnia, or the others, but those 
of all the Muses together, and even of Mercury and 
Apollo ; and by all those things which the poets 
ornament in verse, historians write in prose, and 
philosophers harmonize in the one and in the other 
by all these is our picture adorned, and not 
merely superficially coloured, but deeply and pro- 
foundly tinted. And, above all, she will be found 
to delight in poetry, and to dwell much upon it, 
which is as it should be, she being of the same 


country as Virgil. She is such, in a word, that if 
all the celebrated poetesses of Greece were com- 
bined in one, that one would not be comparable 
to her.' 

The speaker next describes the several moral 
virtues which are to adorn the lady whose portrait 
he, is painting ; in respect to her religion, he says, 
' She does not pass all the day with monks and 
friars, but, leaving them to pray in their cells, she 
hears the mass and other offices with most profound 
devotion, and observes the fasts and almsgivings, 
and other things ordained by the Church ; and also 
preserves a firm and inviolable faith, accompanied 
with a most holy attention to her promises and 
a uniform truth of language, a false word never 
escaping her lips ; besides which, she cherishes a 
deep piety and tenderness towards her country, 
and towards her father and mother while living, and 
when they are no more, towards her brothers.' We 
may also add, that she desires that every one 
may receive rewards and honours according to his 
dignity and merit, and that the holiness of the 
laws may be preserved, in order that the virtuous 
may be rewarded and the wicked punished. And 
with regard to her liberality, of which she sets so 
singular an example, who knows so well how to 


spend her wealth on proper objects and where it is 
most useful to spend it ? This her liberality may 
be clearly perceived from her splendid vestments, 
the magnificent furniture of her house, and its no- 
ble, delightful, and, as it were, divine apartments, 
with the charming chambers full of the rarest 
books, the choicest paintings, marvellous specimens 
of ancient and modern sculpture, and camei, intagli, 
medals and gems. But her liberality is still better 
shown in the good she does to others, and not in 
merely doing it, but in doing it wisely. It is very 
little that she gives to buffoons and mountebanks, 
and such like rabble; her charity is bestowed on 
good and virtuous persons, to whom she gives that 
in which they stand most in need, whether it be 
money, food, or clothing. And when want presses 
she succours them at the moment, and gives so 
largely that she dissipates all their care with regard 
to the support of life ; on which account her name 
has been consecrated by many both in verse and 
prose to immortality, and will be in the mouths 
of people thousands and thousands of years hence.' 
Some other particulars are next gone over, 
but sufficient of the dialogue has been given to 
afford an idea of the manner in which Trissino 
conducted this species of writing, which, at the 


period in which he lived, was so fashionable in 

The epistle to Margarita Pia Sanseverina, on 
the life which should be led by a widow, abounds 
in maxims of plain good sense, and is at the same 
time written with great eloquence. In speaking 
of the caution with which the widow ought to con- 
duct her conversation with the world, he thus 
speaks of her forming intimacies with persons of 
power and rank : " There are two dominant desires 
in the minds of most human beings the one is 
the desire of greatness, the other of wealth ; from 
which if we could free ourselves and remain con- 
tent with being as we are without seeking any 
thing else, we should be free from many fatigues, 
evils, and anxieties which now distress us. We 
should also leave many things undone which these 
impel us to do, and not seek with so much anxiety 
the friendship of the great to make us great, but 
should do as Diogenes did, who, being at Athens, 
received an invitation to visit Alexander the Great 
in Macedonia, upon which he answered, that it was 
no farther from Macedonia to Athens than it was 
from Athens to Macedonia; which magnanimous 
reply had such weight with that most excellent 
King that he went to Athens to see him. Oh ! if 


we could be wise enough to act in the same way, 
how much quieter and happier our lives would be. 
But, void of wisdom, weak and miserable mortals, 
seeing that wealth and power may procure us the 
means of satisfying our appetites, we are so eager 
to win them, that to gain these we sacrifice every 
other good, and not unfrequently destroy both 
body and soul ; never reflecting how unwise it is 
to seek to possess power over others while we 
forget how to govern our own appetites. I have 
made this little digression that you may under- 
stand that as I judge it wrong and imprudent in 
any one to seek the favour of the great to exalt 
themselves, I consider it in the highest degree im- 
proper that a woman should do so ; for even if she 
do it without danger to her honour, she certainly 
cannot do it without injury to her reputation. 
And, indeed, it appears to me that every female 
ought to content herself with the station in which 
she is placed, and seek no greater good than that 
of rendering her life perfectly virtuous." * 

Among the contemporaries of Trissino, Giovanni 
Rucellai was one of his most intimate friends and 
associates, and like him was one of the first re- 
formers, or rather authors, of Italian tragedy. He 

* Opere, vol. ii. p. 284. 


was the descendant of an ancient and noble Floren- 
tine family, and was born in the month of October 
1475. It is not known to whom his education was 
first intrusted, but he studied during his youth 
under Francesco Gattoni da Diacceto, and acquired 
an extensive acquaintance with the Latin and 
Greek classics. Being related on the mother's 
side to the Medici, his family connexions united 
with his abilities to introduce him at an early 
period to public employments, and in 1505 he was 
sent ambassador to Venice. He is supposed to 
have taken an active part in the restoration of the 
Medici to their power in the state, and to have 
been among the noblemen by whose exertions that 
event was brought about in the year 1512. As a 
reward, however, for his attachment, Lorenzo pro- 
moted him to several lucrative employments, and, 
on his being made Captain-General of the Ponti- 
fical army, took him to Rome. Leo X. treated him 
with the greatest favour, and, on his visit to Flo- 
rence, spent some time with him in his garden, 
much celebrated for its beauty and extent, to hear 
him recite his tragedy of " Rosmunda." Nor was 
the Pontiff's esteem for him evidenced only by 
such attentions as these ; he put him on the list of 
those whom he intended to promote to the rank of 
VOL. n. o 


Cardinal, and would, it is believed, have carried 
this intention into execution but for the envy of 
other members of his family. As some compensa- 
tion for the disappointment which Rucellai felt at 
rinding his hopes of advancement so long deferred, 
Leo sent him ambassador to France, but died soon 
after the poet had reached his place of destina- 
tion. On his way home he heard of the election 
of Adrian V., and having no reason to expect any 
favour at his hands, he proceeded to Florence. He 
was received in his native city with many demon- 
strations of respect, and in April 1523 was sent to 
Rome with a congratulatory address to the new 
Pope. The short Pontificate of Adrian being ter- 
minated, Clement VII. ascended the throne, and 
Rucellai was again flattered with the hopes of ad- 
vancement to the highest dignities of the Church. 
Nor would he have been disappointed, had he not 
allowed himself to consider the rank of Cardinal 
as alone sufficient to reward his services, or testify 
the regard in which he expected to be held by his 
relatives. Having previously received some other 
valuable appointments, he was made Governor of the 
castle of St. Angelo, in which situation he died, 
and shortly before Rome was besieged by the Im- 
perialists; Heaven, it has been observed, thereby 


saving him from the misery which he must have 
suffered from such a spectacle, and from being 
obliged either to act as gaoler to his revered rela- 
tive, or to be made a prisoner in the castle himself.* 
Among other poets of a secondary class who 
flourished at or near this period, were Broccardo 
and Francesco Maria Molza, both of them men of 
genius, but prevented from producing any thing 
sufficient to establish their reputation, the one by 
an early death, the other by the unsettled and 
lavish manner in which he passed his life. Broc- 
cardo was bred to the law, but could never subdue 
that passion for poetry which seemed to form an 
element of his nature. The fruits of the hours 
which he stole from his studies were several mis- 
cellaneous pieces, which, on account of their merit, 
found their way into different publications. But 
either the praise which attended these first at- 
tempts of his muse, or the too high opinion he 
had formed of his own powers, led him into an 
error which not only blighted his hopes of literary 
renown, but caused his death. Trusting to his wit 
and the flattery he had received as a young man 
of great ability, he ventured to attack Cardinal 
Bembo, in his quarrel with whom Bernardo Tasso, 

* Giornale de' Letterati. 
o 2 


as we have seen, was on the point of being in- 
volved. But the reputation of the Cardinal was 
too securely established on the prevailing taste of 
the day to suffer from the attacks of such an oppo- 
nent, and poor Broccardo not only saw the object 
of his satire escape without harm, but found him- 
self exposed to the general laugh and scorn of the 
literary public. The pride and vivacity of youth 
were sufficient to buoy him up in making the bold 
attempt on the veteran author, but they entirely 
forsook him when he saw that he was treated with 
ridicule ; his spirits were speedily broken, and, 
after a short struggle with his feelings, he was at- 
tacked with a disorder, the consequence in a great 
measure of his melancholy, which proved fatal. 

Molza lived longer and wrote more, but fell a 
victim to his dissipated pleasures. In his youth 
he equalled the most famous scholars in aptitude 
for learning, not confining his attention to Latin 
and Greek, but making himself acquainted with 
Hebrew while pursuing the ordinary course of 
study. Having, however, been sent by his father 
to Rome, he had scarcely reached the age of man- 
hood when he abandoned himself to pleasure, 
which he continued to pursue without restraint 
till summoned home by his father, who forthwith 


married him to a lady of his native city, Modena. 
This event took place in 1512, but after remaining 
about four years with his wife, he returned to Rome, 
and was quickly involved in the same vortex of dissi- 
pation from which his father had so lately rescued 
him. Ippolito de' Medici and Alessandro Farnese 
were his successive protectors, and, considering 
his abilities and connexions, there is little doubt 
but that he might have advanced himself both in 
fortune and reputation; but, while his company 
was universally courted, while he was regarded as 
the chief ornament of academies, and he could de- 
light the most accomplished men in Rome with 
his conversation, he was almost reduced to want. 
He at length returned to Modena, where he died 
in February 1544. The poems of Molza, which 
have obtained great praise both for elegance of 
style and richness of fancy, were printed with 
those of Broccardo in 1538 at Venice. 

ilffc of Francesco 

FRANCESCO BERNI, from the frequent mention 
he makes of himself in the " Orlando Innamorato," 
might almost claim to be placed among the auto- 
biographers; but, notwithstanding the accounts 
which he has left of himself, it is unknown, ex- 
cept from a comparison of incidents in his sub- 
sequent life, in what year he was born. Accord- 
ing, however, to a calculation, the correctness of 
which there is little reason to doubt, his birth took 
place in one of the last five or seven years of the 
fifteenth century, his father being of an ancient 
and noble family, but possessing a fortune far in- 
ferior to his ancestral respectability.* He was born 

* Mazzuchelli. 


in Lamporecchio, in the Vale of Mevole, whence he 
was sent to Florence, where he remained till he was 
about nineteen, and then proceeded to Rome. He 
had, it appears, a relative there, who was a Cardi- 
nal, and is supposed to have been the Cardinal di 
Bibbiena. Berni naturally expected that, possess- 
ing considerable ability and an active mind, he 
should have been greatly aided in his pursuits by 
the influence of his kinsman ; but, though he did 
him no harm, he was of no service to him, and he 
transferred himself, on the death of the Cardinal, 
without any regret, to the Cardinal's nephew. The 
same fate, however, attended him in his new ser- 
vice, and His patience being worn out with the in- 
different treatment he received from his relatives, 
he attached himself to the Court of the Pope, in 
the character of Secretary to the Pontifical Datary. 
Though the new situation in which Berni had 
thus placed himself was neither more advantageous, 
nor the employment less irksome, than that of 
attending to the caprices of his powerful relative, 
he remained Secretary to the Datary seven years, 
spending part of his time at Rome, and part at 
Verona, of which see his master, Giammatteo Gi- 
berti, was Bishop. He had already entered, it ap- 
pears, the ecclesiastical profession, but had made 


little advance towards acquiring the wealth or dig- 
nities which had been enjoyed by his kinsmen. 
There were, however, two great hindrances to his 
success besides the indifference or neglect of his 
patrons ; he was unconquerably indolent, and he 
was a versifier. But, unsuccessful as he was as 
a candidate for profitable employments, he was 
greatly admired for the liveliness of his disposition, 
the elegance of his poems, which he was accus- 
tomed to recite before his friends, and the bril- 
liancy and variety of his conversation. He thus 
acquired considerable popularity as a literary man, 
and was regarded as one of the chief personages 
in the Academy de' Vignaiuoli, composed of the 
most respectable and distinguished men of Rome. 
This learned association was founded by a gen- 
tleman named Oberto Strozzi, originally of Man- 
tua, but who had latterly resided at Naples, on 
leaving which city he removed to Rome. The 
members of the Academy took poetical names, and 
one was known as II Mosto, another as L'Agresto, 
and a third as II Corogno, and so on. This was a 
fancy which, according to M. Ginguene, was hardly 
becoming a grave assembly of learned men : but the 
Accademia de' Vignaiuoli was as famed for its convi- 
vial festivals as for the erudition of its members; 


and Berni, in his facetious epistles, alludes more 
than once to the rich banquets he enjoyed with 
his brother academicians. A letter is quoted by 
Tiraboschi,* in which Mauro describes a meeting 
of this kind, and which he designates as a supper 
made for the poets, and given by Signor Musse- 
tola, on the eve of St. Lucia. " I, as a poet," says 
the writer, " was present, and no other wine was 
drunk but that of the vineyards of Pontano, 
which was brought by post from Naples. So much 
poetic virtue had it in itself, that we all grew 
warm, not by looking at it, but by tasting and 
drinking it, and that seven or eight times and 
more for once, and such was the effect of it that 

it made me one of the Muses One M. 

Marco da Lodi, at the conclusion of the supper, 

sang to his lyre, as did also M. Pietro Polo " 

But in the dedication of a work to Strozzi, the 
Academy is represented under a graver aspect: 
" You were no sooner arrived at Rome," says the 
writer, Marco Sabino, " than your house was con- 
secrated to the Muses, and became the rendezvous 
of all the most famous academicians at the Court, 
who almost every day assembling there, as it were 
in consistory, Berni brought his excellent bon-mots, 

* Storia, vol. vii. 


Mauro his abstract pleasantries, Monsignor della 
Casa his ever ready and ingenious conceits, Lelio 
Capilupo, the Abate Firenzuolo, Francesco Bini, 
and the amiable Giovo da Lucca, with many others, 
their delightful fancies, and sweetly conversed in 
your company, and in your musical banquets, re- 
ferring all things to the judgment of two censors. 
Thither also came the wonderful improvisatori G. 
B. Strozzi, Pero, Niccolo Franciotti, and Csesare 
da Fano, who sang at the instant on any subject 
proposed to them, and did not more astonish than 
delight us !" 

Berni was a spectator in the month of Septem- 
ber 1526, of the furious attack made on Rome by 
the Colonni. In a letter written soon after the 
event by Girolamo Negro, the circumstances of 
the assault are described with great particularity 
and vigour; and, after relating the destruction of 
the most splendid apartments in the Papal palace, 
with all their valuable furniture, the writer men- 
tions that Berni was a sufferer among the rest. 
" All the apartments of the corridor were broken 
open and destroyed, except that of Campeggio, 
which was defended by some Spaniards, who pre- 
tended they had taken possession of it. Ridolfi's 
was wholly ruined. The Datary saved a good part 


of his property in the castle, but has notwith- 
standing suffered great loss ; among other things, 
porcelain of the most beautiful kind was broken, 
to the value of six hundred ducats. The apart- 
ments del Paradise were all destroyed The 

apartments of the Vicar of our Lord up to the 
very chamber of Alcionio. Berni, whose lodging 
adjoins it, was wholly stripped, and besides carry- 
ing away his clothes and furniture, they seized 
a large pile of letters directed to the Datary, to 
whom Berni is secretary; but hearing some one, 
I do not know who, cry chiesa ! chiesa ! they left 
them behind."* 

During his long attendance on the Roman Court, 
the only close intimacy he formed with men of 
power was that with the Cardinals Niccolo and 
Ridolfi, and with his master Giberti, whom he ap- 
pears to have regarded with undeviating esteem 
and regard. - He was sent by that prelate into 
Abruzzo, to superintend the concerns of one of his 
abbeys there, to which circumstance he alludes in 
a letter to Francesco Bini,f in which he laugh- 
ingly assures his friend that he knows what it is 
to govern, and in a madrigal, in which he complains 
that he was placed by his office in the midst of a 

* Lettere di Principi. Yen. 1581. 
t Lett. Facete, Raccolte per Atanagi. 


certain set who were enemies to good manners. 
In company with Giberti he also made several 
journeys, and spent a considerable time at Ve- 
rona, of which city he makes frequent mention 
in his works, at one time lavishing upon it the 
most glowing praise, and at another making it the 
object of his ridicule. It was there, however, that 
he composed, it is said, the chief part of his " Ri- 
facimento," and the lines in which he alludes to 
this circumstance, are among the most elevated 
that his pen produced : 

Tu che per 1'alto, largo e chiaro letto 
Ratio correndo fai grato romore, 
Raffrena il corso tuo veloce alquanto 
Mentre alle ripe tue scrivendo io canto. 

Rapido Fiume che d' alpestre vena 
Impetuosamente a noi discendi, 
E quella Terra sopr' ogn' altra amena 
Per mezzo, a guisa di meandro, fendi : 

Quella che di valor, d' ingegno e piena 
Per cui tu con piu lume, Italia, splendi, 
Di cui la fama in te chiara risuona 
Eccelsa, graziosa, alma Verona. 

Quella, nel cui leggiadro amato seno 
Mentre io sto questi versi miei cantando 
Dal ciel benigno a lei sempre e sereno 
Tanto piglio di buon quanto fuor mando 


E nel fecondo suo lieto terreno 
Allargo le radici, e' rami spando, 
Qual sterile arbuscel frutto produce 
Se in meglior terra, e cielo altri il conduce. 

Lib. ii. Can. i. St. 5, 6cc. 

Thou, who thy channell'd bed, broad, clear, and deep, 

With grateful murmur rapid pour'st along, 
Not thus upon thy course so swiftly sweep, 

While to thy shores I frame and pen my song ! 
Thou rapid stream, whose fount impetuous swells 

From the cleft Alps, how beauteous is the land 
Through which, meander-like, thou wind'st there dwells 

Of virtue and the Muse the sacred band 
That wreathes with light, proud Italy, thy name, 
And thee, bright, loved Verona ! consecrates to fame. 

That beauteous land, upon whose fragrant breast 
While thus I weave at ease my wandering strain, 
From her blue skies, with calm for ever blest, 
My heart more good than what it gives may gain ; 
And on her plains, with fertile beauty drest, 
My roots increase, my branches spread again, 
Even as transplanted to more genial lands 
The sterile tree revives, and with new bloom expands. 

In a letter written during his residence at Ve- 
rona, we find him alluding to the constant occu- 
pation afforded him by his situation, which was 
not a little augmented by his fondness for corre- 


spending with his friends, and by the composition 
of his poetry. " My Signor Bini," says he, " you 
must be content to give me licence to write no 
more, as I have been writing all the morning;"* 
and in one of the stanzas of the Innamorato, he 
describes himself as constantly surrounded with 
letters, some crowded into his bosom, and others 
under his arms, while his brains were almost spent 
with unceasing writing. Venice, Padua, and the 
south of France, were also visited in obedience to 
the directions of his master, and considering that 
a hatred of all fatigue formed the prominent fea- 
ture of his character, it is not surprising that he 
at length grew weary of so much travelling and 
writing, and sought his dismissal from the post of 
Secretary to the Datary. 

The only reward he had received for his long 
and patient self-denial in the service of Giberti, 
was a canonship at Florence, and notwithstanding 
his attachment to the Bishop, he was not backward 
in expressing his discontent at such a poor return 
for his fidelity. A man, however, whose chief 
good is the possession of rest, and freedom to enjoy 
either his books or his dinner, is far better pre- 
pared to meet the disappointments of a courtier, 

* Letters, Raccolte dall' Atanagi. 


than one whose ambition is greater than his hopes. 
Berni, therefore, quietly resigning himself to his 
lot, bade his master adieu, and repaired to Flo- 
rence, where his main object was to enjoy himself 
in the best manner his income would allow. But 
his reputation as a poet, and his late connexion 
with the Pontifical Court, recommended him to the 
notice of the Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, and his 
cousin the Duke Alexander. Zillioli, as cited by 
Mazzuchelli, says that Berni passed his time very 
pleasantly, conversing with the numerous literary 
men who were ambitious of his acquaintance, and 
contenting himself with the faithful and sedulous at- 
tention of his favourite Fantesca, and one footman. 
The account he has given of his manner of 
spending his life is an admirable specimen of his 
humour, and has been some time before the Eng- 
lish reader in the excellent version which Mr. Rose 
has inserted in his useful and elegant analysis of 
the Orlando Innamorato. In a similar style he 
describes his own character, and allows that he 
was passionate, and not always nice in his con- 
versation, but contends that he was neither am- 
bitious nor avaricious, and that, though he hated 
his enemies, he was a warm and steady friend, and 


more inclined to love than hate. Of his person 
he thus speaks : 

Di persona era grande, magro e schietto ; 
Lunghe e sotil le gambe forte aveva, 
E '1 naso grande, e '1 viso largo e stretto 
Lo spazio, che le ciglia didiveva : 
Concavo 1' occhio aveva, azzurro e netto. 
La barba folta quasi il nascondeva, 
Se P avesse portata, ma il padrone 
Aveva con le barbe aspra quistione. 

His frame was large but spare, nor void of grace, 

And his long supple limbs were strong though thin, 

Large was his nose, meagre and straight his face, 

And small the line his arching brows between, 

He had a clear blue eye, but in its place 

So deeply set, that it had hidden been 

By the thick folded beard's undue dimension, 

But with the beard its lord had often fierce contention. 

His manner of living, however, gave rise to 
many and very serious accusations, and there are 
few vices of the worst kind of which Berni was not 
accused. Except the caution with which all such 
general accusations should be received, especially 
when preferred against a man whose careless dis- 
position and indolence would expose him at least 
as much to slander as to vice, there is little, it 


appears, to be said in contradiction of Berni's 

There is reason to believe that it was owing to 
the indifferent character of our poet, that the story 
respecting his death obtained such general credit. 
According to several authors, the intimacy which 
existed between him and the Cardinal Ippolito, 
led to a violent dispute between the poet and 
Duke Alexander, which rose to such a height, that 
the Cardinal, whose hatred to his cousin was well 
known, ventured to ask his assistance in putting 
Alexander to death by poison. Berni, however, it 
is farther said, was horror-struck at the proposal, 
and refusing to have any share in such an iniquitous 
design, was himself poisoned by the Cardinal, and 
died on the 26th of July, 1536. Another account 
states, that it was the Duke who wished to poison 
the Cardinal, and invited Berni to assist him, and 
that the latter did not die till 1543, when he was 
poisoned by Alexander. But with respect to the 
former of these relations, it is observed that Berni 
was certainly not poisoned by the Cardinal, who 
died in 1535, and fell, as is supposed, a victim to 
his cousin's machinations; and in respect to the 
latter account, that it is very improbable that the 


Duke should have destroyed him for not poison- 
ing a person who had already been dead a year. 

Berni enjoys as high a degree of reputation as 
can possibly be gained, perhaps, by the class of 
writing in which his genius enabled him to excel. 
He occupies, without dispute, the highest place 
among the comic poets of his country, and some 
of his admirers have gone so far as to contend 
that he was the first Italian who wrote in this 
style, an assertion which, without a very useless 
refinement upon words, can hardly be supported, 
when even the Beoni of Lorenzo de' Medici is 
remembered, the strange productions of Burchiello, 
or many of the passages in the] Morgante Mag- 
giore of Pulci. If, however, a refinement of lan- 
guage and delicacy of humour unknown to previous 
writers, can give this author a claim to originality, 
he richly deserves the praise of having founded a 
new school of poetry ; but for the honour not only of 
poetry but of genius itself, it should never be for- 
gotten that there is a great and essential difference 
between the sparkling wit of a writer like Berni, 
and the rich humour which is so often the accom- 
paniment of the highest powers of mind. Berni 
was a scholar, had a good ear, was well skilled in 


the Lingua Cortigiana, could rhyme with facility, 
and loved at his heart both mirth and satire ; his 
verses derive their superiority from this union of 
excellent qualities for a burlesque poet, but they 
have little in them to give relief to the glare 
of wit with which they are suffused, except some 
learned or satirical allusion, which may occasion- 
ally succeed in diverting the reader, but can rarely 
afford us the same pleasure as humour of a higher 
class. Berni possessed no great or lofty powers of 
mind ; little or no imagination, and as little feeling ; 
he had consequently only his wit and command 
of language to trust to for all he wished to effect. 
That he succeeded in reaching the object he had in 
view, is allowed on all sides ; but he has been placed 
in a more conspicuous light than any mere humour- 
ist deserves, and smile as we must at the ludicrous 
picture he has left of himself, swimming in his bed 
six yards wide, sucking soups and jellies through a 
pipe because to use his teeth was too great a la- 
bour, and counting the beams in the ceiling of his 
room in all possible ways for amusement ; however 
we may smile at this at the first reading, we find 
nothing but the picture of a lazy fellow, more lazy 
than ordinary, at the second. What is worse, the 
same picture is again and again presented us in 


other poems of the author, and we must have a great 
appetite for such humour, if we are not soon weary 
of his intolerable repetitions on the subject of his 
indolence, his hatred of disturbance, and his love 
of good cheer. Even in his letters, his facetious- 
ness is continually resolving itself into this topic ; 
and with all his ingenuity and good taste, Berni 
seems to have clung to his own picture as his best 
study on all occasions, and never to have suspected 
that a wit who is constantly talking of himself, is 
not less tiresome after a little time than any other 
egotist. When we add to this, that several of his 
minor productions are most grossly obscene, and 
that he owed, it is probable, much of the reputa- 
tion he enjoyed among his contemporaries to wit 
employed in this base manner, we must place him 
still lower in the ranks of his distinguished country- 
men ; and shall not perhaps be guilty of much in- 
justice, if we regard him as one of those ecclesi- 
astical epicureans of the sixteenth century, whose 
infidelity and licentiousness would have branded 
them with immediate infamy, but that the wit of 
some, the profound politics of others, and the hy- 
pocrisy of the rest, screened them from observation. 
The work, on which the extensive reputation of 
Berni chiefly rests, is his Rifacimento of Boiardo's 


Orlando Innamorato, a production which has had 
the singular success of rendering the original 
poem, of which it is a revision, almost obsolete, 
though for near two centuries after its publi- 
cation it was itself unread and almost unknown. 
The object which Berni proposed to himself in re- 
vising the Orlando, has been differently stated by 
different authors ; by some, he is supposed to have 
formed the idea of rivalling Ariosto, while others, 
and with more probability, assert that he only in- 
tended to improve the antiquated and unclassical 
language of Boiardo, and by interspersing it with 
strokes of humour, give it a degree of life and 
animation which it wanted in its original form. 
Varchi observes, that if he ever conceived the idea 
of rivalling Ariosto, he showed himself to be utterly 
void of that taste, judgment, and prudence, which 
he was reputed to possess. But supposing that he 
only aimed at improving the poem in the manner 
stated above, the opinions of most of the critics are 
in his favour, and Mazzuchelli observes, that he may 
easily be cleared from the accusations of those who 
pretend that he was guilty of presumption in at- 
tempting to improve the Orlando, since " he has by 
no means injured the poem, but on the contrary has 
augmented its celebrity." He also observes, that 


though Teofilo Folengo, Lodovico Dolce, and Are- 
tino tried the experiment of re-making the work 
of Berni himself, not one of them completed the 
undertaking. " Boiardo was much read," says 
M. Ginguene, " before Ariosto published his poem, 
but the Orlando Furioso threw it into oblivion. 
An attempt was made to continue it by Agostini, 
to reform it by Domenichini ; but the only way of 
reforming it was wholly to re-model it, to disengage 
it from the too serious form which Boiardo had 
given it, and to borrow, in order to revive it, some 
colours from the pallet of Ariosto. Berni ventured 
to undertake this task, and he succeeded ; but it is 
much less surprising that he was successful, than 
that, with a genius so free and independent, he 
could so closely follow the original, canto after canto, 
and even stanza after stanza. It is, in fact, prin- 
cipally the style which he has re-made ; but it is 
style, above all, which makes a poem live ; and as 
the Orlando Innamorato re-made by Berni is that of 
all Italian romantic epics which approaches nearest 
to the Orlando Furioso, so is it that which, next to 
the Orlando Furioso, is most read." Like Mazzu- 
chelli, M. Ginguene contends that Boiardo is much 
indebted to Berni. " In effacing the poem as he 
did, he in fact preserved Boiardo's renown, which 



must have perished had he only been the author of 
a poem which nobody read; but while the work 
is read in its new form, the public is continually 
reminded, seeing it even on the title of the book, 
that it was first composed by Boiardo, and that it 
is only owing to the style of the second of these 
poets that they enjoy the inventions of the first." * 

M. Panizzi, however, allows much less merit to 
Berni, and while he bestows upon him considerable 
praise for his humour, and for the elegance of his 
language, very justly finds fault with the taste and 
indiscretion of those who have contributed to the 
substitution of the Rifacimento for the original 
work. He has also adduced more than one instance 
in which the alteration made in the stanzas of Boi- 
ardo is an injury rather than improvement to the 
poem, and at the same time suggests that there are 
reasons for doubting whether the Rifacimento be, 
in fact, the entire work of our author. 

Before concluding this memoir, it may be as well 
to mention that Berni's undertaking, able and ac- 
complished as he was, was far less venturous than 
that of another poet, Niccolo degli Agostini. Not 
thinking of confining himself to the improvement 
of Boiardo's versification or language, he at once 

* Hist. Lit. vol. iv. c. x. 


determined to rival him in invention, from which the 
lively Berni modestly shrank, and which he never at- 
tempted. Thirty-three new cantos, however, were 
produced, and published with the original Orlando 
Innamorato, but they were speedily consigned to 
oblivion. It may perhaps be regarded as some 
excuse for this continuator of Boiardo, who is al- 
lowed to have possessed neither taste nor fancy, 
that he was urged to the attempt by Francis II. 
Sforza, Duke of Milan, in whose employ he appears 
to have been at the time he commenced the work. 
His labour, however, was interrupted for as long a 
period as ten years, during which time, it is sup- 
posed, he was in disgrace with his patron ; but little 
is known of the particulars of his life, and his pro- 
ductions are more an object of curiosity to the his- 
torian than the biographer. 

Berni has been followed by a host of imitators, 
whose style has received, from the name of the 
founder of the school, the appellation of Bernesche. 
Lord Byron, who seems to have been a careful 
reader of the Italian comic poets, and translated 
part of Pulci's " Morgante Maggiore," may be 
termed one of Berni's imitators. 

p 2 

Cfie Hfft of &lamannt< 


LUIGI ALAMANNI was born at Florence on the 
28th of October 1495, and was the son of Pietro 
di Francesco Alamanni by his fourth wife, Ginevra 
di Niccolo Paganelli. His early years were 
spent in the university of his native city, and his 
love for literature bringing him acquainted with 
the most distinguished men of the day, he shortly 
made himself conspicuous for ability in the compo- 
sition of light poetry. In the garden of Bernardo 
Rucellai, forming, it is said, one of the most delicious 
retreats that philosophers ever enjoyed, he was 
accustomed to join a party of friends in discussing 
subjects of interest in philosophy and literature. 


While he was still a youth, he thus enjoyed the ad- 
vantages of hearing such men as the celebrated 
Macchiavelli, Buondelmonti, Francesco Vettria and 
others, develope their favourite opinions ; while the 
presence and conversation of Giovan-giorgio Tris- 
sino, whom he regarded as a master as well as a com- 
panion, inspired him with the desire of acquiring 
excellence in the art to which his genius led him. 

About the year 1516, he married Alessandra 
Serristori, and by the interest which his father pos- 
sessed with the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, was re- 
ceived at Court with the most flattering attention. 
The patronage which the Cardinal extended to 
him, gave his friends reason to hope that he would 
speedily rise to the most lucrative posts in the 
government ; but whether the capriciousness of the 
Prince, or the irritability of his own temper was the 
cause, he offended his patron, and so greatly that 
all favour was withdrawn from him. The disgust 
he felt at what he considered an unjust neglect, 
led him into committing other offences. It had been 
ordered by the Cardinal, that whoever was found 
with arms on his person should be fined ; Luigi, 
either neglecting this command in order to insult 
the Prince, or from an idea that his quality as a 
courtier exempted him from the decree, was taken 


late one evening wearing his arms, and was accord- 
ingly condemned to pay the penalty. His anger at 
this circumstance is said to have known no bounds, 
and he was thenceforth wholly employed in seek- 
ing the means of satisfying his resentment. 

The death of Leo X., which occurred in Decem- 
ber 1521, afforded him an opportunity for putting 
his designs into execution. As he was not the 
only Florentine of rank who had reason to be dis- 
contented with the Cardinal, he found little diffi- 
culty in forming a party to aid him in his views. 
Among the foremost were his literary friends Za- 
nobi Buondelmonti, Jacopo da Diacceto and others, 
and the plot having been fully arranged, they re- 
solved, by putting the Cardinal to death, to free 
their country from what they considered a state of 
disgraceful servitude. The conspirators, however, 
did not depend on their own exertions solely for 
the success of the enterprise, and a messenger 
from one of their principal confederates being in- 
tercepted, the plot was made known to the Car- 
dinal. Jacopo da Diacceto was soon after taken, 
and being put to a public examination, no doubt 
remained as to the chief movers of the insurrection. 
Fortunately for them, intelligence arrived at Buon- 
delmonti's, in whose grounds they were met for 
p 5 


consultation, sufficiently early to allow of their 
escape. Alamanni happened at the time to be 
a short distance out of town, but receiving the 
tidings by one of his friends, he fled without 
loss of time into the territory of the Duke of Ur- 
bino, and from thence to Venice, where he met 
many of his associates, and was hospitably enter- 
tained with them in the house of the senator Carlo 
Capello. But they had not been long settled in 
Venice when the Cardinal de' Medici was advanced 
to the pontifical dignity, and it quickly became evi- 
dent they could not with safety remain there any 
longer. Alamanni and some of his companions, 
therefore, immediately took their departure, but 
in passing by Brescia, they were seized and thrown 
into confinement. Happily, their persons were 
unknown, or were pretended to be so by those who 
captured them, and after suffering a brief inter- 
ruption to their journey, they were suffered to 
proceed. Our author now visited many parts of 
Italy and France, and was received in the latter 
country with great attention by Francis I., to whom 
he owed so much kindness in the concluding years 
of his life. In the October of 1525, as he was 
passing the sea between the Isle of Elba and that 


of Giglio, he was taken suddenly ill and narrowly 
escaped with his life. 

The events which occurred during the two fol- 
lowing years, restored Alamanni to his native city. 
Clement VII., having fallen a prisoner into the hands 
of the Emperor, saw himself on all sides stripped 
of his possessions ; while the Florentines, rejoicing 
at the opportunity offered them for recovering their 
liberty, instantly expelled his partisans and esta- 
blished a popular government. It was now, how- 
ever, strongly debated whether, they should seek to 
pacify the Pope, or seek the alliance of his enemy. 
A general assembly was convened to discuss this 
question with proper formality. Alamanni was 
present with the rest of the citizens, but, holding 
no office, did not take part in the debate, till ex- 
pressly called upon for his opinions, which he ex- 
pressed, after some modest hesitation, with admi- 
rable eloquence. To the surprise of all present, he 
spoke in contradiction to the ruling party, which 
gave birth to so many suspicions against him that 
he was obliged to retire to Genoa. 

But if men of eminent talents are exposed in 
turbulent times to the jealousy or opposition of the 
multitude, they are generally recompensed for any 


temporary trouble by the honour shown them the 
moment the populace begins to lose the confi- 
dence they had placed in their own councils. Ala- 
manni while at Genoa, in October 1527, was elected 
Commissary-General by the Florentines, who could 
think of no man equally fitted to aid them in their 
approaching contest with the allied forces of France 
and Venice. Forgetting the injurious treatment he 
had received at the hands of his fellow-citizens, he 
accepted the office, and by his zeal and ability per- 
formed the functions of his situation to the general 
satisfaction of the Republic. In the year following 
his election to the Commissariat, he was inscribed 
in the Florentine militia formed at that period ; and 
in 1529, pronounced an oration in the church of 
Santa Croce, in the presence of the soldiery and 
the magistrates. 

Shortly after this, circumstances occurred which 
again called forth his political sentiments on the 
subject of the connection between Florence and the 
great powers of Europe. The late campaign having 
terminated in the discomfiture of the French and 
their Italian allies, the former had entered into a 
secret negotiation with the Emperor, and the Pope 
only stipulated for the restoration of the Medici to 
Florence, as the condition of his joining in the 


treaty. Alamanni, finding affairs in this situation, 
counselled the Republic in the strongest terms to 
send an ambassador to the Emperor, and if possible 
obtain an accommodation. In this measure he was 
supported by the famous Admiral Andrea Doria, 
who secretly encouraged him to proceed in the de- 
sign ; but all his efforts proved vain, and finding 
himself again treated with unmerited suspicion, he 
once more returned to Genoa. He, however, con- 
tinued to exert himself with his friends and parti- 
sans to effect the objects he thought so essential to 
the benefit and safety of his country. To this end, 
he went with his friend Doria into Spain ; during his 
stay in which country, he discovered that a treaty 
was entered into by the Pope and the Emperor, of 
which the principal article respected the restoration 
of the Medici to Florence, which was to be accom- 
plished under the protection of an Imperial army 
about to march into Italy. Immediately on making 
this important discovery he hastened back to Flo- 
rence, and had scarcely arrived there when the 
Emperor was on his way to Genoa. The Repub- 
lic, on finding the perilous situation in which it 
stood, sent four ambassadors, with Alamanni at the 
head of the mission, to meet the monarch and pro- 
pose terms. The embassy reached Savona, where 


Charles was detained in his passage by contrary 
winds, and our poet was received with the most 
courteous attention ; but after two days of fruitless 
negotiation and discussions, which were continued 
till both parties entered Genoa, the Emperor de- 
clared his resolution to reinstate the Medici in 
their former authority, and at last signified that as 
he could not do it by persuasion, he should employ 
force. Florence was accordingly soon after be- 
sieged by the united forces of the Pope and the Em- 
peror, and Alamanni, after remaining some months 
at Genoa, proceeded to Lyons in 1530, where he 
applied to the Florentine merchants settled there 
for a loan of money to assist the Republic in its 
defence. They, in their turn, applied to the King 
of France, who was greatly their debtor, and hav- 
ing collected a considerable sum they sent part of 
it to Pisa, while Alamanni carried the remainder 
to Genoa, where it is feared, by indulging in his 
ruling vice, the love of play, he lost some of the 
money committed to his trust. 

Florence soon after this, that is in the August of 
1530, was obliged to open its gates to the Imperial 
forces, and Alessandro de' Medici being reinstated 
in his authority, the principal persons of the con- 
quered party were condemned either to banishment 


or imprisonment. Among the rest, Alamanni was 
confined three years in Provence, where he became 
acquainted with the lady whom he commemorates 
in his verses under the name of " Ligura Pian- 
tra." Finding at length that there was no chance 
of a change in the affairs of his country, he re- 
solved upon seeking the favour of Francis I., who 
was known to be passionately fond of Italian poe- 
try, and a general favourer of learned men. On 
arriving at the Court of this monarch, Alamanni was 
received with the greatest respect, and was subse- 
quently placed in many lucrative offices. He was 
also honoured with the collar of the Order of St. 
Michael, and by the munificent patronage of the 
King was enabled to cultivate his genius without 
interruption. The fruits of the leisure he thus en- 
joyed appeared in 1532, under the title of " Opere 
Toscane," and with a dedication to Francis. 

In the following year, on the marriage taking 
place between the Duke of Orleans and Catherine 
de' Medici, he was appointed by the latter Master 
of the Household, and not long after manifested his 
gratitude for this promotion by presenting his royal 
mistress with his poem entitled " Coltivazione," 
which he dedicated to the King, to whom he begged 
her to send it. For six years he remained in 


France, without revisiting any part of Italy ; but 
from some lines in one of his sonnets, it appears 
that he had then the gratification of repassing the 
Alps, and beholding the scenes which had been 
rendered still dearer by his exile. " I thank God," 
says he, " that I turn my steps to see thee at least 
once more, after six years' absence, superb Italia !" 

It was in the same year that Alamanni paid this 
visit to his native country that Duke Alessandro 
was killed, and it is not impossible that his journey 
was in some manner connected with the various 
plots which had been long in agitation by the exiled 
party. On the death of Clement VII. in 1534, six 
procurators were chosen by the fugitives to inter- 
cede with the Emperor, and of these our poet was 
one ; but his absence not allowing him to act, his 
place, it is worthy of mention, was supplied by a 
namesake of the great Dante. The efforts made 
on this occasion proved unavailing, and no better re- 
sult attended the application which on the death of 
the Duke was made with stronger hopes of success. 

The years 1538 and 1539 were passed in Rome, 
as also the former part of 1540. It is supposed 
that at this period he was under the protection of 
the Cardinal Ippolito d' Este, but, however this may 
be, he shortly after proceeded to Naples, and from 


thence passed the confines of Florence to Ferrara, 
Padua, and Mantua, where he was in the April of 
1540, before the end of which he returned to 
France. The following year he made another jour- 
ney into Italy, and is said to have been present at 
the Carnival of Ferrara, and heard Giraldi Cintio 
recite for the first time his celebrated tragedy of 
" Orbecche." In 1543 he was about to set out as 
ambassador from Francis to Genoa, but was pre- 
vented by the political situation of that State. 

The year 1544 is an era in his life worthy of no- 
tice, as he was then sent ambassador to the Empe- 
ror Charles V. in Spain. This mission was the more 
formidable, as he had written, during the war be- 
tween the two monarchs, some verses which ex- 
pressed the bitterest dislike of the Emperor, and 
were well known to have reached his ears. Among 
the rest were these lines 

. L' Aquila grifagna 

Che per piu divorar due becchi porta. 

On arriving at the Court, he was admitted to a 
morning's audience, and in the presence of a large 
number of the greatest personages of the empire, 
delivered an oration in praise of the Sovereign. 
Unfortunately, however, several of the verses began 
consecutively with the word " aquila," and when he 


finished his speech, which Charles had listened 
to with the greatest attention, the latter quietly 

L' aquila grifagna 

Che per piu divorar due becchi porta. 

Alamanni never gave a better proof of his wit 
as a courtier, or of his confidence as a republi- 
can, than now. Instead of being struck dumb with 
confusion, he replied with a grave countenance, 
" In those lines, most magnanimous Prince, I spoke 
as a poet, whose privilege it is to fable and invent ; 
now I reason as an ambassador, in whom it would 
be disgraceful to utter any thing false, and espe- 
cially when I am sent from so sincere and holy a 
Prince as mine, to a Prince so sincere and holy as 
your Majesty. Formerly I wrote as a youth, now 
I speak as an old man : then full of disdain and 
anger at finding myself expelled from my coun- 
try by the Duke ; now free from every passion, 
and assured that your Majesty intended no in- 
justice : then filled with false information, now in- 
formed by the infinite experience of what I have 
seen and heard in my commerce with the world." 
Charles had the good sense to be perfectly satisfied 
with this apology, and laying his hand on the ora- 
tor's shoulder, said, " that he greatly regretted that 


the event at Florence had occasioned the exile of so 
excellent a person, but that there was the less to 
regret, as he had by that means obtained the pa- 
tronage of the great and generous Francis, and 
that every nation was the country of a virtuous 
man." To these gracious words the Emperor added 
some rich presents, and dismissed the ambassador 
delighted with his reception, and the courtesy 
with which he had been treated not only by the 
sovereign but by all his nobles. On his return 
to France, he was rewarded by Francis with new 
grants, bestowed on him and his son ; and on the 
accession of Henry II. to the throne, he was treated 
by that monarch with the same regard as he had 
enjoyed under the heroic Francis. The young 
king, after presenting him with a large gold orna- 
ment, desired him to complete the poem of "Girone 
il Cortese," begun some time before, and which he 
finished and published with a dedication to Henry 
in 1548. He appears also to have been equally 
esteemed by the new monarch for his political ex- 
perience, as some of his letters allude to the jour- 
neys he made on public business, and he is known 
to have visited Genoa in 1551, to obtain its assist- 
ance in the war which, Henry undertook against 
the Emperor to defend his ally the Duke of Parma. 


He was not successful in this mission, and on his 
return to France, he resumed his poetical labours 
by continuing the " Avarchide," which, however, he 
did not live to complete. His death was occasioned 
by a dysentery, which attacked him while resid- 
ing with the Court at Amboise, and terminated his 
existence on the 18th of April 1556. His re- 
mains were deposited, according to Ghilini, in the 
church of the Cordeliers in Paris. 

Alamanni had by his first wife Alessandra Ser- 
ristori two sons, Batista and Niccolo, who severally 
enjoyed the highest offices in the church and 
state. He had also another son and daughter 
who died young. The following is a list of the 
works of this author, now little remembered, but 
one of the most distinguished men of the sixteenth 

" Opere Toscane," consisting of Elegies, divided 
into four books, of which the first three are amor- 
ous, and the fourth devotional. Eclogues, written 
in imitation of Theocritus, and in blank verse, 
which he is said to have been among the first to 
bring into use, Trissino being allowed to have the 
better claim to originality. Sonetti, Ballate, and 
Canzone ; Favole, Satire, and the Salmi Penitenziali, 
form the remainder of the first volume of the " Opere 
Toscane." The second consists of " Selve," divided 


into three books, and written in blank verse ; of the 
Favola di Fetonte ; and the Tragedia di Antigone, 
merely a translation from that of Socrates of the 
same name, but done in so admirable a style, that 
it acquired the praises of the most excellent Italian 
critics ; of Hymns, composed in imitation of Pindar, 
and which have obtained him the reputation of 
being the first to introduce that species of poem 
among his countrymen, and to employ the classical 
divisions of strophe, anti-sti ophe, and epode, named 
by him ballata, contra-ballata, and stanza ; and of 
Stanze, in ottava rima ; and Sonnets, intermixed 
with ballate. 

The other works of Alamanni are, 1. La Colti- 
vazione, considered as one of the most excellent 
poems that Italy has produced in the secondary 
class of composition. It is in blank verse, and is 
an express imitation of Virgil's Georgics, which it 
is considered as sometimes to equal, and in one or 
two passages to surpass. 2. Girone il Cortese, 
which is supposed to be little more than a poetical 
version of the old French romance of the same 
name, which the author mentions as the foundation 
of the work in his dedication to Henry; it was, how- 
ever, never much esteemed. 3. L'Avarchide, which 
derived its name from Avariam, the ancient appel- 
lation of the city of Bourges, the capital of Berri, 


and the siege of which forms the subject of the 
poem. Like the Girone il Cortese, it met with no 
success, owing perhaps not so much to the author's 
want of poetical fervour, as to his absurd pre- 
tensions of imitating Homer. 4. Flora, a comedy, 
equally unesteemed. 5. Epigrammi, consisting of 
one hundred and twenty-two Italian decasyllabics. 
6. Orazione. 7. Rime, or miscellaneous pieces, 
which are to be found in several collections of 
Italian poetry, edited at various times by different 
Italian scholars. 8. Lettere, of which a very few 
only remain. 9. Some remarks on Homer, which 
were sufficiently esteemed to be published in the 
Cambridge edition of 1689. 

It has been supposed that he wrote other works 
which were left unpublished. The principal of 
these are, La Liberta, a tragedy ; but Mazzuchelli 
says that he made every effort to discover any 
remains of this poem without effect, and therefore 
considers it probable that it was erroneously attri- 
buted to his pen ; besides which, many other mis- 
cellaneous pieces are ascribed to him, and several 
romances, which II Doni and others assert he 
wrote, but their testimony is rejected by Mazzu- 
chelli, who supposes the mistake to have arisen 
from an equivocal use of the word Romanza, ap- 
plied to fictions whether in prose or verse. 

3Life of JSattteta uartnu 

23attfeta tfluartnt. 

THE name of Battista Guarini holds a conspi- 
cuous place among those of the celebrated men 
whose genius shed so great a splendour over the 
Court of Ferrara. He was born in the year 1537, 
and was the son of Francesco Guarini and the 
Countess Orsolo Baldassare Macchiavelli. His an- 
cestor Guarino Guarini removed from Verona to 
Ferrara in the middle of the fourteenth century, 
and was appointed to the professorship of the 
Greek language and literature by Niccolo III. 
Marquis of Este.* He performed the duties of this 
office with great reputation, and was regarded by 
* Barotti, Sent. Fer. 



his contemporaries as one of the most accomplished 
scholars of the time. Of the early life of Battista 
little or nothing is known for certain. By some 
authors he is said to have passed 1556 and the 
two following years at the University of Padua, 
but the first circumstance in his history which 
can be depended upon, is his appointment in 1557 
to a professorship in the same school in which his 
distinguished ancestor had taught, and which was 
left vacant by the death of his master Alessandro, 
a scholar of great learning and eminence. 

Ferrara at this period was as famous for the learned 
men of its university as for the numerous nobility 
and lustre of its court. The wars of Alfonso I. had 
compelled that prince to contract his domestic ex- 
penses in every way that was practicable ; and 
amongst the other methods he employed for that 
purpose, was the dismissal of many of the profes- 
sors of the university. In the time, however, of 
Hercules II. it was restored to its former flou- 
rishing condition, and philosophers and learned men 
from all parts of Europe, from England among the 
rest, frequented and lectured in its schools. While 
war raged in other quarters of Italy, and several of 
its universities were thereby exposed to attack, 
that of Ferrara formed the asylum of the exiled 


professors, and reaped the advantage of their united 
abilities. Bartolommeo Ricci, in a letter written to 
a friend in 1556, the year before Guarini was made 
professor, says, that owing to the pestilence that 
raged in one part of Italy, and the war that dis- 
turbed another, Ferrara enjoyed an unusual con- 
course both of teachers and scholars. The Duke, 
however, took a share in the war the following year, 
and the schools were for a short time closed, but 
to the gratification of our poet and the other learned 
men engaged in promoting the glory of the uni- 
versity, it was soon after put in a condition for 
again asserting its right to rank among the most 
famous academies in Europe. 

The learning and eloquence of Guarini obtained 
him considerable reputation ; he was regarded as 
the most accomplished orator of the age, and his 
lectures on poetry and rhetoric were universally 
admired. He had, it appears, more ambition to be 
l6oked up to for his erudition and oratorical abi- 
lities than to obtain fame as a poet, considering the 
latter title, it is remarked, either as of little value, 
or as pertaining only to a set of idlers.* It must 
not, however, be forgotten, that the author who puts 
this sentiment into the mouth of Guarini, resigned 
* Apostolo Zeno, Galleria c)i Minerva. 
Q 2 


his own chance of a long-enduring and noble repu- 
tation to become a courtier, and that he sacrificed 
the fruits of extensive learning, and a life spent in 
the exercise of great talents, to be the servant of a 
German Emperor. The fate of both Guarini and 
himself was such as they merited : the one suffered 
the constant uneasiness of discontent and a disap- 
pointed ambition; the other enjoys only a small 
fragment of the fame he might have won had he 
been content to exercise his eminent talents with 
freedom, and as they were most likely to aid the 
cause of learning and philosophy. 

Guarini, however, was not unsuccessful in his 
pursuit of distinction at Court. Alfonso received 
him into his service in the year 1567, and trusting 
to his known abilities as an orator, sent him on a 
mission to Venice, to congratulate the new Doge, 
Loredano, having previously raised him to the 
rank of a Cavalier. Considerable doubt exists as 
to the chronological order in which his various 
journeys ought to be arranged; but there is good 
reason to believe, that after his return from Venice, 
his first journey in a public capacity, and having 
published the oration which he addressed to Lore- 
dano, he was sent as ambassador to Savoy, where 
he resided several years ; and that on being recall- 
ed from that station, he proceeded to Rome ; his 


journey to which city occurred in the year 1571, and 
when such was the speed with which he travelled, 
and the shortness of the notice he had received to 
prepare for the business of the mission, that he was 
obliged to compose the address he was to deliver 
before the new Pope and the conclave of Cardinals 
during the night on which he arrived. He, how- 
ever, preserved his reputation as a consummate 
rhetorician, and it has been asserted, though it 
appears on insufficient grounds, that Gregory em- 
ployed his talents in some important affairs of his 
own. As another proof of the esteem in which 
he was held as an orator, it is also mentioned that 
at the funerals of the Emperor Maximilian and the 
Cardinal Luigi d'Este, which were solemnized at 
Ferrara, Guarini had the honour of pronouncing 
the orations customary on such occasions.* 

In the year 1563, he was sent into Poland to 
congratulate Henry of Valois on his election to the 
throne of that kingdom; and on his way thither 
visited the Emperor of Germany. On his return 
from the North, Alfonso saw so much reason to be 
satisfied with his conduct, that he made him Secre- 
tary of State and Counsellor ; but events occurred 
shortly after, which again called for the exercise 
of his ability as an ambassador. Henry of Valois, 

* Niceron, Mem.des Homines Illus. 


after having for a brief period occupied the throne 
of Poland, was recalled to France by the death of 
Charles IX., which left him heir to the crown. The 
kingdom of Poland was thus again become an ob- 
ject of contention to the princes of Europe, and 
Alfonso being desirous of gaining the prize, but 
anxious to avoid any disgrace if he should be de- 
feated, entrusted the management of this delicate 
and important affair to Guarini and another of his 
courtiers, Gualengui. A curious account of this 
journey is given by Guarini himself in a letter to 
his wife, which I extract : 

" This, which you read, is my letter and yet is 
not my letter; it is mine by dictation, but still is 
not mine, for I did not write it. You have not, 
however, so much cause to grieve that it was not 
written by my hand, as you have reason to rejoice 
that I had a tongue to say that which otherwise 
either a vain compassion or little charity would 
have perhaps concealed. I know well you have 
complained at not having received letters from me, 
but I have no need to make an apology, the cause of 
the omission being much more lamentable than the 
effect. Do not complain that my silence has been 
long ; thank God that it was not eternal. I set off, 
as you know, more like a courier than an orator ; 


I should, however, have been content to fatigue 
my body could I have rested my mind; but the 
hand that during the day urged on the horses, was 
employed through the night in turning over papers, 
in the same way that Rome saw me arrive in the 
evening by post, and the next morning beheld me 
in the consistory to offer homage to Gregory XIII. 
Nature could not sustain this twofold fatigue of 
body and mind, especially as I travelled by Sara- 
valle and Ampez, the worst and most disagreeable 
road, not only on account of its own roughness but 
of the people, the badness of the horses, and the 
wretchedness of the inns. The consequence of all 
was, that on entering Hala I was attacked with a 
sharp fever. Notwithstanding this I set out imme- 
diately for Vienna. What I suffered I leave you 
to imagine ; constant fever, thirst, and scarcely a 
physician to be met with ; wretched lodgings, 
and poisoned with stench ; food that would turn 
the stomach of even a healthy person ; beds which 
choke one in the feathers ; in short, none of those 
accommodations which are so necessary to a poor 
sick traveller. The evil every day became worse, 
and my strength to support it less ; my taste ab- 
horring every thing but wine; there was, there- 
fore, little hope of my living, and that little was 


even odious to me. I found myself in this con- 
dition on the Danube, a stream so vast and ra- 
pid, that not a vessel could be navigated on it did 
not the pilots avail themselves of the assistance 
of the men of the country, who are very muscular, 
strong, and accustomed to danger, and who are 
always ready with their oars to work the vessel 
against the fury of the torrent. The place is 
worthy of the name which it has gained by its 
famous infamy, ' The Pass of Death.' There is no 
person so bold who does not fear as the bark 
makes its way along that track, for it is, in truth, 
a frightful and formidable undertaking. But, for 
my part, I was so ill, that having lost all sense of 
danger or desire of living, I did not care to go 
out, but kept in the vessel with a few bold men; I 
hardly know whether I should say stupidly or in- 
trepidly, but I will say intrepidly, since I was 
within two paces of death and had no fear. At 
last I reached Vienna, where a physician, neglect- 
ing to consider the state of my body, gave me 
poison instead of medicine, and my disease, instead 
of being subdued, raged so much the more. You 
will, perhaps, say that I ought to have been firm, 
and taken more care of my life. This was the 
counsel which my common sense, my sickness, and 


my strength, the natural desire of life, the love of 
my creatures, the necessities of my house and 
children dictated ; but my honour gave me a diffe- 
rent counsel, which was, that being the head of the 
embassy, and having upon my shoulders the whole 
weight of this great and important business, I ought 
to prefer the service of my master to my life, and 
prove my zeal in such a manner that the King of 
Poland might be able to argue from my death in 
favour of my Prince, instead of suspecting from my 
life that I was guilty of deceit by not pressing for- 
ward to perform those promises which were ex- 
pected to be fulfilled. 

" With this idea in my mind, it is hardly pos- 
sible to imagine what I suffered in the journey of 
more than six hundred miles from Venice to War- 
saw, not conveyed but dragged and torn along 
by the vehicle. I know not how I existed. The 
fever continued unabated ; I could neither eat nor 
sleep, nor was there any remedy for my disorder. 
The cold was excessive, the annoyances without 
number, the roads almost uninhabited, and it was 
generally more tolerable to pass the night in the 
vehicle which shattered me to pieces in the day, 
than to be suffocated in the stench of the hovels, 
sties, rather, in which the dogs, and the cocks 
Q 5 


and hens, and the geese, and the pigs, and the 
cow, and the children were all mixed together. 
The difficulty, moreover, of the route is not a little 
increased by the hordes of robbers who infest the 
country ; and it is necessary to be well escorted, 
and often to leave the direct road, to avoid falling 
into their hands, which, notwithstanding, we were 
more than once near doing, but by Divine goodness 
I escaped. At length I reached Warsaw, but much 
more dead than alive. The only ease I find, after 
having suffered and while still suffering so much, 
is in the possibility of standing upright instead of 
being cramped in the vehicle. With regard to rest, 
I can get none either night or day. My fever is 
now the least of my miseries ; the accidents and 
circumstances are worse : the place, the season, 
the food, the drink, the water, the servants, the 
physic, the physicians, the labour of mind, and a 
thousand other circumstances contrive to distress 
me. If I were not thus annoyed, I could struggle 
against the fever ; but I cannot even tell whether 
my not being able to sleep be the fault of my sick- 
ness or of the noise about me. Imagine the whole 
nation lodged in a little spot of ground, and my 
chamber in the midst. There is not a place either 
above, or below, or on either side, there is not an 


hour of the day or night not filled with noise and 
tumult. There is no particular time here destined 
to business ; here they always traffic, because they 
always drink, and without wine things fall to the 
ground. When business terminates, then visiting 
begins ; and when the latter fails, drums and trum- 
pets, bombardings, rumours, shouts, tumults, and 
every other kind of noise, supply the vacuum. Oh, 
if I suffered all these torments for the love and 
glory of God, I should be a martyr. Prepare your- 
self for every fortune. It is the part only of a simple 
woman to lament violently the death of a husband 
who fears not to die. Let others honour me with 
their tears, do you honour me by your fortitude. 
I commend to you our children, who, if I die, will 
have to find in you a father as well as a mother. 
Support yourself with reflection and manly reso- 

Guarini did not succeed in the main object of 
the mission, but he preserved the credit of his 
master uninjured, and Alfonso professed great ad- 
miration of the talents by which his pride had been 
thus kept from receiving any wound. But the poet 
had too many enemies at court to allow of his 
reaping the rewards he merited. During his jour- 
neys, the most active measures were taken to ruin 


his hopes of advancement, and he had not only to 
contend with the violent fatigues to which he was 
necessarily exposed, but with the harassing sus- 
picion that, labouring as he was for his Prince, he 
should be finally suffered to die neglected. Al- 
lusion is probably made to these circumstances in 
scene 1, act 5 of the Pastor Fido, where Guarini 
is supposed to lament his lot under the character 
of Carino. 

Completely wearied, at length, with disappoint- 
ment, and finding that, instead of improving his 
income by living at court, he should be ruining the 
moderate fortune he possessed, he resolved to re- 
tire from Ferrara, and endeavour to content him- 
self in the bosom of his family. In 1582, accord- 
ingly, he requested his dismissal from the Duke, 
and proceeded to his estate in the Polesine of Ro- 
vigo, named La Guarina, after his great grand- 
father, to whom it was granted by Duke Borso, in 
reward of his services as ambassador to France. 
But, owing to the situation of this estate, Guarini, 
it appears, was almost continually engaged in some 
law-suit to defend his right to possession ; and 
this circumstance, with the pressure of numerous 
debts, and a family of eight children, some of 
whom regarded him with little affection, greatly 


contributed to prevent his enjoying the repose he 
had hoped to find in the country. In a letter writ- 
ten from Venice, where he was prosecuting his 
process, and addressed to Cornelio Bentivoglio, who 
had married his wife's sister, he describes his pre- 
sent condition in the most melancholy language. 
" They who complain of me," says he, " remember 
not my complaints, or what I have so often said of 
my hard fortune, caused, as is well known, not by 
an indolent or vicious life, but by all the evils 
with which Heaven and earth can overwhelm the 
miserable father of a family, and especially by a 
most laborious and fruitless servitude of fourteen 
long years, through which my house has fallen into 
confusion, and I have lost the means of paying my 
debts, and providing for the necessities of a large 
and badly conducted family." After having men- 
tioned that he scarcely could consider himself a poet, 
and that he had much more important occupations 
to pursue than writing verses, he continues ; " To 
settle controversies, to sustain actions, to look out 
for money, to treat with creditors, to make bar- 
gains, to form contracts, these are the objects 
which now fill my mind. My companions are im- 
posing lawyers, lying procurators, perilous tribu- 
nals, importunate officials, perfidious messeti, co- 


vetous men, credulous persons, suspicious spirits ; 
offers which come and go ; hopes to-day flourish- 
ing, and to-morrow withered; necessity always 
green; accounts from home always troublesome; 
wants always pressing, want of money, and still 
greater want of friends and fidelity. Amid all 
these distresses and miseries, does your Excellency 
think that I can invite the Muses to me, or that, 
if I did, they would inhabit a mind so agitated as 
mine ? The Muses are young, gay, happy, nor do 
they willingly remain where there is trouble ; and, 
therefore, poetry is very like love, which is nothing 
more than a kind of thoughtless thought (pen- 
siro spensieratoj, an idle business, or, as is said, 
a care without mind. Thus poetry, what is it 
but a sensible madness, and a distraction of the 
brain, which it renders so insensible, that it often 
happens that they who have brains forget they 
have any, and they who have none, think they have 
them in abundance. From which most grievous 
misfortune I will guard myself with all my strength." 
In the same strain he observes, that Augustus and 
Maecenas, and other patrons of poets, bestowed 
greater gifts on them than on men of science and 
learning, not because they held them in higher 
esteem, but because, while the latter every day 


increased in sense and capability of providing for 
themselves, the former lost more and more of their 
brains by their constant attention to dreams and 
chimeras, and therefore became poor, and had 
need of support, and some reward for the loss of 
their senses, which they suffered by making poetry. 
" But to return to myself," he continues ; " I am 
now in my forty-fourth year, am the father of 
eight children, two of which are able to judge of 
my negligence. I have marriageable daughters ; I 
have the burden of many debts ; I have no time 
for idleness ; I should be a madman did I not 
strive to bring into port what little I have saved 
from shipwreck."* 

But, notwithstanding the pleasure Guarini ap- 
pears to have taken in ridiculing poets, and the 
affectation of which he was certainly guilty in pre- 
tending to have no ambition to be ranked among 
the bards of his country, there is every reason to 
believe that he was in no slight degree jealous of 
those who enjoyed distinguished reputation. His 
conduct in correcting Tasso's works, when the 
afflicted author was prevented from attending to 
their revision himself, merits the highest admira- 
tion ; and, were there nothing else recorded of him 

* Lettere. 


deserving praise, this one circumstance in his life 
would give him a claim to our commiseration in all 
the disappointments and troubles of his own career. 
But, though he felt and acted so generously to- 
wards the unfortunate Tasso, he was not the less 
jealous of his fame, and it is generally believed that 
his idea of writing the " Pastor Fido" sprang from 
the feeling of rivalry which was inspired by the ap- 
plauses of the " Amirita." 

However this may be, Guarini devoted some 
part of the leisure he enjoyed at his estate, and in 
Padua, where he spent the winter months, in the 
composition and correction of his celebrated drama, 
and found, it is probable, in this employment, 
which he professed to treat with such contempt, 
more satisfaction, and a better medicine for his 
harassed mind, than he could ever discover in 
the pursuits on which he dilates with such rhe- 
torical gravity. But he was not suffered to en- 
joy the pleasures of retirement, or try the effects 
of literary relaxation for any length of time. Al- 
fonso, knowing his talents as a man of business, 
recalled him to court, after he had been absent 
about three years, and made him Secretary of State. 

Guarini, in missions to Umbria and Milan, 
evinced the same zeal and ability in the service of 


his Prince as formerly; but he had scarcely re- 
sumed his public avocations, when circumstances 
of a private nature again put a stop to his career. 
In the letter quoted above, we find him observing, 
that two of his children were sufficiently old to form 
a judgment respecting his conduct. It is not im- 
possible that he meant it to be understood, from 
this expression, that they had actually constituted 
themselves his censors ; but whether this was the 
case or not, his treatment of his eldest son was not 
calculated to preserve either his authority or con- 
duct from being questioned. The young man, it 
appears, had lately married a lady named Virginia 
Palmiroli ; but, owing either to his want of reve- 
nues, or some other cause of a similar kind, he con- 
tinued to reside with his wife in the mansion of his 
father. So far, however, was Guarini from con- 
tributing to render this arrangement advantageous, 
that he treated his son with a haughtiness and as- 
perity that rendered the condition of the latter in- 
supportable. Irritated, at length, beyond endur- 
ance, he left the house and determined to apply 
for relief to a court of justice, which he conceived 
would oblige his father to give up the property 
belonging to him and his wife which in his rage he 
retained. The dispute between the father and son 


was accordingly brought to trial, and, to the vexa- 
tion of the former, a verdict was pronounced 
against him. 

It is impossible to decide at this distance of 
time what were the real merits of this extraor- 
dinary case, but there can be no doubt that Gua- 
rini acted with little regard to his dignity, when 
he condescended to seize the property of his son 
and daughter to satisfy his claims upon them for 
expenses attending their nuptials. He, however, 
conceived himself treated with the greatest in- 
justice by the judge who had presided at the trial, 
and who, it is said, was his personal enemy. There 
was therefore, perhaps, more reason on his side 
than is suspected, and we should probably be 
guilty of much injustice did we condemn him on 
the little information we possess on the subject. 
So convinced was he himself that he had not been 
treated with proper fairness, that he attributed the 
decision against him in a great measure to the 
secret interference of the Duke ; and under this 
impression, he addressed a letter to him full of 
bitter complaint and remonstrance. This unfor* 
tunate affair brought back all the feelings of dis- 
content which had occupied Guarini's mind on so 
many previous occasions : he now considered him- 


self treated not merely with neglect, but with the 
most flagrant ingratitude, and if he before felt that 
his services, so long and faithfully persevered in, 
were inadequately rewarded, he now looked upon 
the Duke as guilty of inflicting on him the worst 
and most unmerited injuries. Considering, there- 
fore, that he had no longer any reason to waste 
his strength, or employ his talents in the service 
of Alfonso, he firmly requested his dismissal from 
office, resolving to quit a court, without farther 
delay, where for more than twenty years he had 
been continually struggling against the cabals of 
personal enemies, and employing the best energies 
of his mind to promote the honour of a Prince 
who regarded him only as a mere instrument to 
effect his purposes. 

Alfonso was by no means pleased at the reso- 
lution of his Secretary, and even thought himself 
treated with ingratitude ; but Guarini had deter- 
mined upon the course he was to take, and suspect- 
ing from the known disposition of the Duke* that 
his liberty might be endangered if he delayed his 
departure, he hastened from the city as privately as 
possible, and proceeded to the Court of the Duke 
of Savoy. That Prince willingly took him into his 

* Sup. al Gio, vol. ii. p. 169. 


service, and found him so much occupation, that 
in writing to a friend, he says he was so constantly 
employed, that " wanting to write a letter, he had 
not time to do it." From Savoy, however, he was 
obliged to retreat after a brief stay, alarmed, it is 
supposed, by the machinations of Alfonso, who 
was known to have a particular dislike to any of 
his former ministers being in the employ of other 
potentates. Padua was his next retreat, and there, 
in December 1590, he had the misfortune to lose 
his wife, who seems to have retained his affections 
throughout the long and unsettled career he had 
passed since their marriage. A new set of feelings 
now took possession of his mind. Hitherto he had 
seen no other means of escaping from the persecu- 
tions of fortune, but by seeking shelter in Padua or 
La Guarina ; but now he might flee for protection 
to the Church, and his wife was scarcely buried 
when he resolved to hasten to Rome, and assume 
the ecclesiastical habit. How admirably does a 
passage in one of his letters show the state of his 
mind, when breaking from the load of its grief, it 
caught, with the eagerness of childhood, at the 
first novelty that rose in his thoughts. " This is 
so sudden a change and transformation of my life," 
says he, " that I am induced to believe it has not 


occurred, as indeed nothing can, without the inter- 
vention of God, who thus summons me to another 
vocation." The idea, however, of taking orders 
vanished with the return of his good spirits, and 
he allowed all thoughts of the kind to be dissipated 
by an invitation sent him from the Duke of Man- 
tua, to accept an appointment in the Archducal 
Court at Inspruch. But Alfonso, though five years 
had now passed since their dispute, had not for- 
gotten his resentful feelings, and Guarini again 
contemplated a flight to Rome, whither he pro- 
ceeded, but not, as it appears, with any present 
idea of entering the Church. 

During all the time that the unfortunate father 
was thus wandering from court to court, his son 
Alexander enjoyed the protection of Alfonso, and 
was rising rapidly in rank and influence. Trusting 
to his favourable situation, and retaining no anger 
towards his parent, the young man ventured to be- 
seech Alfonso that he would allow his father to settle 
himself peaceably in the service of some prince ; but 
the Duke haughtily denied the request, and after- 
wards said to the Duchess of Urbino that the son 
imitated the father, and cared little for his favour. 
Alessandro, however, was not to be thus hastily 
repulsed, and repeating his application, he sue- 


ceeded in obtaining both his own and his father's 
restoration to the Duke's good opinion. The let- 
ters which Guarini wrote to Alessandro while this 
affair was pending, breathe doubt and suspicion in 
every line, and he cautions his son against snares 
and spies with all the anxiety of a man who had 
lived the best part of his days among enemies, 
and who knew that whoever pursued the same 
kind of life must encounter an equal number. 

Guarini returned to Ferrara with great satis- 
faction, but old sources of family dispute were 
again laid open, and Alessandro had to regret that 
the efforts he had made to obtain his return were 
only productive of bitter contentions. The return 
of our poet took place in 1595, and the Duke died 
in 1597 ; between those periods no event occurred 
worth recording, but in May 1598, his daughter 
Anna fell a victim to the jealousy of her husband, 
and her murder, and the neglect he suffered at 
Ferrara, induced him to proceed to Florence, where 
he was honourably received by the Grand-duke Fer- 
dinand. For some time every thing remained to the 
poet's satisfaction, but unfortunately his youngest 
son Guarino, whom he had sent to Pisa to complete 
his education, formed a connexion with a lady of 
the place, who was young and beautiful, but poor 


and a widow. To increase the evil, the time they 
fixed for their nuptials was when Ferdinand and 
Guarini were spending some days in Pisa ; and 
the latter was no sooner made acquainted with 
the event, than, unable to control his anger, he 
charged the Duke with having encouraged his 
son to marry against his will, and immediately left 
his service. Nor did his anger cease with its first 
explosion. His son, it appears, was quickly re- 
duced to a very necessitous condition, and when 
his brother used all his influence to obtain him 
some assistance, the enraged father replied that 
he was not bound to support his son's wife ; that 
as he had chosen to take her, he might look to 
her poverty, and that he would be too happy did 
he receive any good when he had done nothing 
but evil. A resentment still more implacable ap- 
pears in his answer to the letter in which Ales- 
sandro informed him of the death of his brother 
Girolamo, who had also married badly, and gave 
an account of the measures he had pursued to 
insure him a becoming burial. " You acted per- 
fectly right," replied Guarini, " in that which 
respects the soul of the deceased, but I cannot 
praise you for what you have done for his remains. 
Such honours become the worthy only, and he was 


the enemy of his father, and dishonoured his fa- 
mily. This is not right in the sight of Heaven. 
As he did not think that I, his father, merited 
obedience, I do not think that he ought to have 
honour from me ; Justice would have changed her 
nature, did the base receive the respect due only 
to the good." 

On leaving Florence, Guarini hastened to Ur- 
bino, which he left dissatisfied, and then returned 
to Ferrara. He was then sent by the citizens as 
their representative to the Roman Pontiff. The 
reception, however, which he met with on this 
occasion, though flattering, perhaps, in some re- 
spects, was not without its annoyances in others. 
The fame of his Pastor Fido was spread far and 
near, and there were few persons who had not 
read or heard it recited. Supposing, therefore, 
that its scenes really contained any thing highly 
prejudicial to public morals, the author might na- 
turally look for a reproof from grave, virtuous, and 
austere-minded churchmen ; but too many in- 
stances existed of the most charitable forbear- 
ance in matters of this sort on the part of the 
Church, to suffer any fears to arise in Guarini's 
mind respecting his poem, and it was, therefore, 
with no little surprise that he heard the Cardinal 


Bentivoglio declare that his pestilent work had done 
more mischief in the world than Luther and all the 
impious heretics put together. 

Nothing is known respecting his life after this 
journey to Rome, which took place in 1605, except 
that he returned toFerrara, and again and again 
quarrelled with Alessandro, but was as often recon- 
ciled to him, acceding in some degree to his inter- 
cessions in favour of his brother, who, it may be as 
well to mention here, lost his wife not long after 
the death of his father, and repaired, it is said, the 
fault of his youth by marrying Julia Ariosto, a 
lady in every way worthy of being allied with the 
Guarini. It; appears, however, that the poet was 
engaged to the last day of his life in law-suits, 
mention being made of another journey to Rome 
undertaken on this account, and of more than one 
for the same purpose to Venice, in which city he 
died in the month of October 16] 2. 

Both the good and the evil qualities of Guarini's 
heart are so strikingly displayed in the events of 
his life, that little skill is required to draw the 
outline of his character. He was proud and am- 
bitious, but his attachment to his master converted 
his pride and ambition into supports of his loyalty. 
The warmth of affection which he manifested for 



his wife, and his anxiety respecting the welfare of 
his children, afford proofs that he was not desti- 
tute of domestic virtues; but the violence of his 
resentments, his slavish pursuit of promotion, and 
his ill conduct for a long time to the unfortunate 
Tasso, prevent our regarding his name with that 
feeling of personal affection which attaches to the 
recollection of many other poets. 

The Pastor Fido, on which the present literary 
reputation of Guarini solely rests, has enjoyed 
from its first appearance an extraordinary degree 
of applause. Its fable is more complicated than 
that of most pastoral dramas ; many of its scenes 
affect us with stronger feelings than are awakened 
by other compositions of the kind ; and the spirit 
and pathos of the dialogue are frequently varied 
by the most sparkling descriptions. But, not- 
withstanding these merits, it fails in that exqui- 
site spirit of pure poetry which breathes in the 
Aminta, forcing upon us the feeling that the 
author was a man who had other thoughts and 
cares than he who was only a poet. Guarini has 
been deservedly censured for the licentious tone 
of some of his verses, and Apostolo Zeno has not 
been sparing in his reproofs.* In the lifetime of 

* Galleria di Minerva. 


the author, the Pastor Fido had many critics, and 
to the objections of the principal one, Doctor Boni- 
facio, Guarini returned a formal defence. In one 
part of this apology, he says of his drama, " Is it 
not a spectacle for great princes and for queens ? 
Is it not represented in all the chief cities of Italy ? 
Has it not been printed twenty-eight times in Ve- 
nice alone, though it has not been written more 
than twenty years? Has it not been translated 
into five foreign languages?" This statement of 
Guarini has been confirmed by other writers, who 
say, that before his death it had been printed forty 
times, and was translated into the languages of In- 
dia and Persia. 



Dorset-street, Fleet-street. 

PQ Stebbing, Henry 

4057 Lives of the Italian 

38 poets